TokHang documents prove drug war caused cops to kill suspects – FLAG

Lian Buan
TokHang documents prove drug war caused cops to kill suspects – FLAG

Alecs Ongcal

'Police operatives were already conditioned by these information reports not only to arrest suspects but to neutralize them,' the Free Legal Assistance Group tells the Supreme Court

MANILA, Philippines – The police’s own records showed that the Duterte administration’s war on drugs caused the cops to kill their suspects outright, the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) told the Supreme Court (SC).

FLAG is urging the Court to declare the drug war unconstitutional.

In a supplemental memorandum submitted to the High Tribunal on Monday, October 21, FLAG showed the High Court at least 19 information reports that were filed by policemen during the pre-operation phase, which “often form the basis for the conduct of buy-busts and other police anti-illegal drug operations.”

The information reports detail the identity of the suspects, and that “this [police] station [is] incessantly conducting case build-up against the said personality.” FLAG added that “if evidence warrants a possible police operation and intervention, [the police station] would step up for his immediate apprehension and neutralization.”

“All of them, without exception, were killed by police operatives in their own homes and without search or arrest warrants,” said FLAG.

This is illegal, the lawyers’ group said.

“The duty of the police has never been couched as neutralization – it has always been to arrest and gather evidence for prosecution, and only to use deadly force when absolutely necessary,” said FLAG.

Oplan Tokhang, which rolled out shortly after President Rodrigo Duterte became president in June 2016, allows the police to raid suspects’ homes even in ungodly hours and without warrant.

PNP, DILG circulars

Command Memorandum Circular (CMC) No. 16-2016, which former police chief retired general Ronald dela Rosa signed on July 1, 2016, and which operationalized the war on drugs, is peppered with the words “neutralize” or “negate,” according to FLAG. Dela Rosa is now senator.

“It is not defined in the PNP Manual of Operations or in any official PNP document. But in official PNP reports and police parlance – as admitted by Dela Rosa – ‘neutralize’ means to kill,” FLAG’s original petition said. 

FLAG is also seeking to declare as unconstitutional  the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 2017-112, which operationalized the Mamamayang Ayaw sa Anomalya, Mamamayang Ayaw sa Iligal na Droga or MASA MASID, or the system by which residents can report a drug suspect.

Over the years, other agencies aside from the Philippine National Police (PNP) would issue supplemental guidelines in a clear attempt by the Duterte government to fix legal loopholes of the anti-drug campaign, but not before more than 6 million houses were subjected to Oplan Tokhang and tens of thousands were left dead in the drug war.

“The acts authorized or conducted under the questioned PNP and DILG circulars violate the Bill of Rights and existing law and jurisprudence,” said FLAG’s memorandum.

TokHang documents

FLAG examined TokHang documents which the PNP was compelled by the Supreme Court to submit.

FLAG noted, however, that “many of the files contained in the compact discs as well as some of the hard copies furnished to petitioners are corrupted or could not be read.”

Earlier, FLAG’s co-petitioner, Center for International Law (CenterLaw), said the documents were “rubbish” as  90.01% of the solved cases are not drug-related; and 55.80% of the unsolved cases are also not drug-related.

The documents are crucial in the Court’s assessment of whether the police is conducting the war on drugs in a legal manner – that is, properly documented, with complete pre-operation and post-operation reports.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, the member-in-charge, retires on October 26. –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.