SC’s Martires: PNP out of drug war, why still include them in petition?

Rambo Talabong
SC’s Martires: PNP out of drug war, why still include them in petition?
The PNP has dropped all its anti-illegal drugs operations since October 12, but they can still provide 'auxilliary assistance'

MANILA, Philippines – With the Philippine National Police (PNP) already suspending all of its operations on anti-illegal drugs since October, Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Martires asked on Tuesday, November 22, why lawyers still filed a case to nullify their campaign.

During his interpellation during oral arguments, Martires pointed out that the administration’s war on drugs has already been turned over “solely” to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).  (READ: Was the PNP’s war on drugs illegal? Here’s why lawyers think so)

“The killings were all perpetrated by the police officers?” Martires asked Center for International Law counsel Joel Butuyan, who replied in the affirmative.

“Are you aware that the enforcement of drugs is transferred to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency now and it is not with the police?” Martires continued, Butuyan said yes once more.

“Why did you not remove as party respondent the Philippine National Police?” the Associate Justice asked.

In his line of questioning, Martires – an appointee to the Supreme Court of President Rodrigo Duterte –echoed the PNP’s counsel, Solicitor General Jose Calida, who said the complaint had been rendered moot since the memorandum that the lawyers are questioning has already been dropped upon the orders of Duterte.

In response, Butuyan argued that while the PNP has indeed stopped all of its operations against illegal drugs, they still provided “auxiliary assistance”, referring to the PNP’s continuing intelligence-gathering.

Butuyan also cited PDEA chief Director General Aaron Aquino, who said that they still needed the PNP in the drug war, hinting at their possible return.

Martires pressed Butuyan whether he had heard of any incidents where the PNP was involved in PDEA operations. Butuyan was not able to give any.

While still unreported, the PNP can help out in the drug war, but under special conditions, as enumerated by PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa: the PDEA must be involved in a gunfight where they are losing, and they requested for backup from the PNP.

The PNP’s operations chief Director Camilo Cascolan also earlier told Rappler that cops can still help in crowd control during PDEA-only operations, on top of their regular patrol and checkpoint operations.

The Supreme Court will hear the defense of the PNP next week, November 28, expecting PNP chief Dela Rosa to attend the session. –

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.