Oral arguments on ‘Tokhang’ cases set on Nov. 21

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THE Supreme Court has released the guidelines for oral arguments on the consolidated petitions against the government’s war on drugs and police “Tokhang” or “knock-and-plead” operations.

The Supreme Court session hall

Based on a five-page advisory obtained by The Manila Times, the court en banc will give petitioners and the government the opportunity to defend their respective legal positions in the oral arguments on Tuesday.

The document was dated November 17, 2017 and was signed by Clerk of Court Felipa Anama.
Oral arguments will be limited on the following issues:

“A. Main Issues in General. 1. Whether PNP Command Memorandum Circular (CMC) 16-2016, and DILG Memorandum Circular (MC) 2017-112, are constitutional. 2. Whether the petitions, on their faces, show that the Writ of Amparo ought to issue.”


As to the contending sub-issues: “a. Procedural a. Whether a class suit is proper in Amparo proceedings. b. Whether petitioners have standing to file the instant petitions. c. Whether the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over the instant petitions. d. Whether a petition for Prohibition and Amparo can be joined in one petition. e. Whether the petitions are formally defective for want of proper verification and certification against forum shopping.”

In the substantive aspect: “a. Whether PNP Command Memorandum Circular (CMC) 16-2016, and DILG Memorandum Circular (MC) 2017-112, have legal basis for their issuance. 1. Whether the PNP Chief and DILG Secretary are authorized to issue CMC 16-2016 and MC 2017-112, respectively. 2. Whether CMC 16-2016 and DILG MC 2017-112 can be construed as directing the performance of any unlawful act.

“b. Whether the acts authorized, or conducted (as alleged in the petitions or Writ of Amparo in GR. Nos. 234359 and 234484), under the authority of the PNP’s CMC 16-2016, as well as the DILG’s MC 2017-112, violate the….constitutional, statutory and administrative provisions.

“c. Whether the acts authorized, or conducted (as alleged in the petitions for Writ of Amparo in GR Nos. 234359 and 234484), under the authority of the PNP’s CMC 16-2016, as well as the DILG’s MC 2017-112, violate the Philippine’s international legal obligations, such as those found in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICPR) as well as the Minnesota Protocol.

“d. Whether petitioners are entitled to the interim reliefs prayed for until the instant petitions are resolved.”

Two petitions

The consolidated petitions are with the designated ponente, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.
The petitioners will be given the chance to present their claims first. The petitions were filed separately by Aileen Almora, Rowena Aparri and Jefferson Soriano; and Ma. Juanita Daño, et al.

The Office of the Solicitor General will represent the respondents PNP Chief Ronald de la Rosa, Interior department officer in charge Catalina Cuy, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, and Manila Police District Chief Supt. Joel Napoleon Coronel.

“The parties are granted 20 minutes each to make their opening statements. The interpellations by the Members of the Court shall immediately follow after each presentation of arguments by each side. Where one side is represented by multiple counsels, they shall divide the time allotted. The time allotted for each counsel to argue shall be exclusive of the time devoted to interpellations by Members of this Court,” it stated.

Both petitions sought the issuance of an amparo writ, a remedy available to any citizen whose right to life, liberty and security is violated or threatened with violation by any unlawful act or omission of a public officer, or of a private individual or entity.

In the Almora petition, which was raffled off to Carpio, the petitioners, represented by lawyers from the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), are urging the high court to strike down as unconstitutional PNP Command Memorandum Circular (CMC) No. 16—2016 for Oplan Double Barrel, the police’s anti-drug campaign, and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Memorandum Circular 2017-112, which put up a system of anonymous reporting for offenses involving illegal drugs, criminality, and corruption.

They said the PNP circular was alarming since it expressly authorized the police to kill suspected drug personalities. The DILG circular also violates citizens’ right to due process, they said.

It pointed out that President Duterte’s war on drugs has no legal basis because it was based on a verbal campaign promise by Duterte to rid the country of illegal drugs within the first six months of his term, and is not supported by an executive order or proclamation issued by the President.

The petitioners argued that submitting names of alleged criminals could be done by anyone who suspects, rightly or wrongly, that another person is a criminal.

In the Daño petition, petitioners are led by lawyers from the Center for International Law (Centerlaw)-Philippines.
Filed after the issuance of the abovementioned memorandum, the Daño petition seeks relief from the high court against “tokhang” anti-drug operations of the Manila Police District (MPD).

The Daño petition is led by Sr. Ma. Juanita Daño of the Religious of the Good Shepherd and Francisco Blanco Jr., brother of an alleged victim of Oplan Tokhang, in which PNP men went to the homes of drug suspects to convince them to surrender.

It said MPD Station 6 should be barred “from conducting any anti-illegal drugs or anti-criminal operations in San Andres Bukid without the required coordination and presence of representatives from the barangay (village), the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the media and such other persons required to be notified or having the authority to be present at and observe such operations.”

In October, the PNP officially terminated anti-illegal drug operations under “Oplan Tokhang” and “Oplan Double Barrel,” under heavy international and local pressure amid the killings of thousands of suspects.

Based on PNP records, at least 3,800 people were killed in anti-drug operations. But human rights groups place the figure at 13,000.

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