MANILA – Human rights group Center for International Law (CenterLaw) on Wednesday filed a petition for writ of amparo (court protection order) before the Supreme Court in behalf of the 39 family members and neighbors of persons killed in tokhang operations in San Andres Bukid district in Manila, and as a class suit in behalf of all its residents.
Respondents are the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Philippine National Police, represented by PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa, Manila Police District director PSSUPT. Joel Coronel, and other police officers.
The writ of amparo is a legal remedy for those who threaten or violate the right to life, liberty, and security. The petitioners are asking the Supreme Court to issue a temporary protection order for them.
According to the petition, Manila Police District Police Station 6 supposedly cordoned off the perimeters of the slum areas in San Andres Bukid, disabled closed circuit cameras, and stood guard and warned neighbors not to look while armed men broke down doors and gunned down victims inside their own homes.
The petition said that armed men entered these areas in the dead of night, barging into houses, shooting their victims, then leaving. Police supposedly appeared in the scene shortly after, carting off the victims’ bodies and directing that the bodies be brought to “the police’s authorized funeral parlors”.
According to Atty. Joel Butuyan, lead counsel, there is a pattern to the police’s actions, including the guns used in the killings.
The petitioners seek that the police be barred from getting within a one-kilometer radius distance from the residents and the victims’ families, or near the houses, schools, or workplaces of the residents and the victims’ families.
They also want the police to be forbidden from harassing or talking to the families, as well as to stop them from seeking lists of drug pushers, users, and troublemakers from barangay officials.
The petitioners also want the Supreme Court to order the PNP to transfer the chief and members of Manila Police District Police Station 6 outside of Metro Manila.
They ask as well that the Commission on Human Rights, the Department of Health, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development be made to visit the petitioners who are in jail, and the spouses of the victims twice a month.
The petitioners also want the Supreme Court to task the Office of the Ombudsman or the city prosecutor to investigate the 35 deaths that occurred in the area.
They want anti-drug and anti-criminality operations to be conducted only with coordination with the PDEA and the media.
The petition said that innocent wives, partners, mothers, brothers, sisters, relatives, and even neighbors of the victims were arrested and even “falsely” charged with illegal possession of drugs or conspiracy with the persons killed.
The petition noted that there were no cases filed against the perpetrators of these killings, and that in many instances, no crime scene investigation was conducted. Nor were there reports submitted.
The petitioners are suing because their rights to life, liberty, and security are threatened by unlawful acts or negligence of the respondent law enforcers.
“By banding together, petitioners, though fearful still, have found their courage and are now asking this government to recognize and respect the dignity of their persons as human beings,” the petition said.
It continued, “Petitioners hope that the killings of their loved ones will not become a template for their own violent deaths.”
The petition stated that many of the petitioners voted for then presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte in hopes that they would be served and protected.
“Never in their wildest dreams did they imagine that their lives, liberty, and security, as well as the lives of their loved ones, will be sacrificed literally on the altar of peace and order in what is packaged to be a fight against the proliferation of illegal drugs,” the petition said.
This is the second petition filed by CenterLaw against the PNP and the government’s anti-drug war. The first was filed in January for the protection of families of tokhang victims in Barangay Payatas, Quezon City.
The court granted the petitioners a permanent protection order.
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