The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday was asked by a survivor and relatives of four slain garbage collectors to stop the Philippine National Police (PNP) from conducting so-called tokhang operations in enforcing the government’s war on drugs.
Members of the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) were implicated in the death of the four employees in the 2016 incident.
The demand came after a petition for a writ of amparo was lodged before the High Court, seeking protection from the tribunal against alleged abuses of some members of the PNP.
The writ of amparo is a remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty and security is violated or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity.
The petitioners are Efren Morillo, 28, and the lone survivor in a police anti-drug operation, and relatives of fatalities Marcelo Daa, 31; Jessie Cule, 20-25; Raffy Gabo, 23; and Anthony Comendo, 26.
Named respondents to the case are the PNP headed by Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa; Senior Supt. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar, QCPD director; Supt. Lito Patay, QCPD Station 6 commander; Senior Inspector Emil Garcia; Police Officer 3 Allan Formilleza; PO1 James Aggarao; and PO1 Melchor Navisaga.
The petitioners alleged that there was a tokhang operation in the house of victim Daa on August 21, 2016 at Group 9, Area B, Payatas, Quezon City.
It was stated that a group of five armed men and two women wearing civilian clothes entered their house and accused the victims of involvement in illegal drugs.
According to the petitioners, the intruders ransacked the house, planted drug evidence against the fatalities, took personal belongings and mercilessly shot Daa, Cule, Gabo, Comendo and Morillo, execution style.
Morillo survived by playing dead.
“Thus, respondents [QCPD policemen] had no authority to conduct ‘Oplan: Tokhang’ in Barangay Payatas, where the incident occurred. It is thus quite obvious that they fabricated evidence to make it appear that they had jurisdiction to conduct ‘Oplan: Tokhang’ operations where the incident occurred.
“Otherwise, if it were indeed a legimate operation, there is no need to lie about the place of the incident,” the petition read.
The petitioners said the PNP claimed before the media that its men killed the alleged drug suspects in a legitimate tokhang operation, branding the four garbage collectors as notorious drug suspects and robbers.
They denied the allegations, calling them lies fabricated by the Quezon City police.
The petitioners said “the incident on 21 August 2016 was not a legitimate police operation that resulted in a shootout between suspects and policemen” but a “summary execution that was enabled by ‘Oplan: Tokhang.’”
“The attempt to cover up the crime and glorify it as a police achievement is achieved through a systematic conspiracy among different units of the same police district, part of which is to silence and frighten possible witnesses and aggrieved parties from speaking up in the name of justice,” their petition read.
Around 7,000 individuals have died in the anti-drug war declared by President Rodrigo Duterte when he assumed office in July this year.
The petitioners sought the High Court’s intervention for immediate issuance of a temporary protection order (TPO) directing respondents to refrain from issuing or carrying out any threat to the life, liberty and security of petitioners; and prohibition against entering within a radius of 5-kilometers of the residences and work addresses of petitioners.
Also sought was a “TPO against the implementation of ‘Oplan: Tokhang’ in Area B, Barangay Payatas, and all areas under QCPD Station 6; production order directing respondents to produce and permit the inspection and copying or photographing of intelligence and surveillance reports, police blotters, coordination, video and all other official and unofficial documents and materials pertaining to the police operations on the day of the subject incident; and privilege of the writ of amparo for the long-term protection of petitioners.”