SC ruling on drug war documents 'big first step' toward accountability

MANILA, Philippines – Two opposition senatorial bets hailed the Supreme Court's decision to release documents related to President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody campaign against illegal drugs, calling it a "big first step" in terms of accountability and transparency in the key government drive.

Otso Diretso candidates Chel Diokno and Florin Hilbay, both lawyers, weighed in on the impact of the SC ruling in a news briefing on Wednesday, April 3. 

“Kami ay natutuwa dahil malaking bagay ito pagdating sa transparency and accountability in the drug war…. Alam 'nyo, matagal nang nililihim ng pamalahaan itong mga datos na ito. At kami'y nagtataka bakit nila tinatago 'yan. Kung wala namang masama doon sa mga nangyari at sa ginagawa nila sa drug war, why are they keeping this away from the eyes of the public?” said Diokno, who is also chairperson of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG).

(We are happy because this is a big thing when it comes to transparency and accountability in the drug war…. You know, this government has long been keeping the data secret. And we’re wondering why they are hiding it. If they have not done anything wrong in their drug war, why are they keeping this away from the eyes of the public?)

On Tuesday, April 2, the High Court thumbed down Solicitor General Jose Calida's motion for reconsideration to keep the drug war documents only between the Duterte administration and the Court.

This means the SC will now furnish the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), which Diokno chaired, and the Center for International Law copies of police and other investigation reports related to the 20,322 killings by both vigilantes and policemen in the anti-drug campaign.

Diokno said that with these documents, FLAG would be able to confirm the pattern the lawyers' group observed in the anti-drug police operations when it comes to explaining the death of drug suspects. 

“‘Yung mga kaso doon ng mga nanlaban, talagang nagtataka kami na halos pare-pareho lang ang mga justification kung bakit nila pinatay 'yung supposedly lumaban. Pati 'yong wording, pati 'yong language sa mga report ay parang cut and paste. Ngayon ay bibigyan na kami nitong kopya ng supposed to be lahat  na ng mga nangyaring kaso, ay malalaman na natin kung talagang may obvious pattern o wala,” said Diokno. 

(In the cases of those who supposedly fought back, we are wondering why the justification for their deaths are the same. Even the wording, the language used in the reports seem to be just cut and pasted. Now that we will be given copies of documents of supposedly all the cases, we will be able to confirm whether or not there is an obvious pattern.)

Former solicitor general Hilbay said the release of the drug war documents is “long overdue.”

“Nakita naman natin talaga 'yung pattern ng administrasyon na ito na tinatago nila 'yong mga dokumento na puwedeng maging basehan sa responsibilidad, na puwedeng maging basehan para doon sa pagsipat doon sa laman ng kanilang war on drugs,” said Hilbay. 

(We have seen the pattern employed by the administration, which hides the documents that could serve as basis for responsibility, as basis for scrutinizing their war on drugs.)

“These are officials acts that were performed under the direction of public officials who should be liable for their actions. And so this is a big first step toward making them accountable, compelling them to be transparent,” he added.

Malacañang had said it would abide by the SC decision. –

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.