The Supreme Court (SC) was asked by a human rights group on Thursday to issue guidelines and rules on prevention and investigation of reported extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.
In a 14-page letter-petition, the Center for International Law (CenterLaw) asked the SC for issuance of the new “writ contra homo sacer,” which shall respond to reported deaths of thousands of drug suspects.
“We write to implore the [Supreme Court] to promulgate additional rules on criminal procedure to help prevent the disturbing emergence of a class of people who – harking back to ancient Roman times – are no more than homo sacer, or beings reduced to mere biological existence, denied of all rights, marked for execution anytime and anywhere,” the document stated.
The petitioners pointed out that the SC has its rule-making powers for protection and enforcement of constitutional rights.
It can also promulgate rules on preliminary investigation that “necessarily carries with it the power to supplement and revise” them, they said.
The SC was also asked that a new mandatory inquest procedure be instituted to investigate drug-related killings.
The Rules of Court promulgated by the High Court serve as guidelines on procedure during prosecution and court litigations.
“Many of these documentary requirements, while already provided under existing rules of the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), are often ignored by authorities,” CenterLaw said.
It added that police and prosecutors “have been unable or unwilling to go beyond their traditional roles” of receiving evidence until complaints have been filed by victims or interested parties.
The petitioners argued that the guidelines can be incorporated or included in the amendment to the Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Under Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code, they said policemen have the duty to deliver to proper judicial authorities a detained person within prescribed periods of law, and that any failure to perform that duty will amount to a crime.
“The reason behind Article 125 is to have the grounds of arrest and the imputation of crime made by police officers reviewed independently by judicial officers. This is a fundamental safeguard for citizens against abuses of police officers who may become accusers, prosecutors, judges and executioners rolled into one,” CenterLaw said.
“The obligation of police officers to turn over records, documents and all evidence in connection with the commission of a crime as they themselves allege must be required all the more if the suspect ends up dead, either at the hands of police officers or unknown assailants,” the letter-petition read.
CenterLaw asked the Supreme Court to adopt international standards laid down by the United Nations Minnesota Protocol on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal Killings, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, Enforced Disappearances and Torture in crafting the new writ.
“Our proposals can either be adopted as amendments to existing procedures or regulations or they can be transformed into such class of writs as the amparo to compel investigation and prosecution on the part of the police and the prosecutors, respectively, such that the perpetrators will be made to answer for their violation of the law and, ironically, brought within the protection of the law with the commencement of judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings,” the letter-petition read.
“For this reason, impartial and effective investigation is needed to address these vigilante killings, to remove all suspicions about the government’s involvement in the deaths from shootouts between police and drug suspects and to bring the killers to the bars of justice,” it said.