Quezon City residents fail to get TRO on drug testing, surveillance

MANILA, Philippines – Quezon City (QC) residents who were subjected to house-to-house surveillance and drug testing by the local police failed to secure a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the court on Monday, September 11.

QC Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 100 Judge Editha Miña-Aguba said she "does not see any reason to issue a TRO" since QC Police District (QCPD) Superintendent Guillermo Eleazar told the court that they were no longer doing the questioned operations.

The petitioners' counsel, Kristina Conti of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), believed Eleazar's statement meant the police were voluntarily stopping the operations.

“With QC Police District (QCPD) Superintendent Guillermo Eleazar’s statement that they will no longer conduct house-to-house surveys and drug tests, the QC RTC Judge did not issue a TRO. Voluntary desistance by the police moots the urgent prayer to stop these operations,” Conti said.

QC residents fail to get TRO vs supposed house-to-house drug surveillance. NUPL lawyers move for injunction @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/Ys6bqyY4Ej — Lian Buan (@lianbuan) September 11, 2017

Operations to continue

After the hearing, however, Eleazar clarified that the operations would continue, and the police would only stop the manner in which they conduct the operations. They would have a minimal role, where cops will no longer administer either the survey or the drug test.

“I reiterated the role of the police in house-to-house visitations, andun lang kayo for security and visibility (you're just there for security and visibility). As for the drug test, never will the police administer the drug test, it will always be the barangay officials,” Eleazar told Rappler in a phone interview.

Petitioners wanted to stop the operations, describing the cops as “hostile and menacing” to those who tested positive for drugs. Lead petitioner Jennifer Ann Mendoza from Barangay South Triangle, whose house was surveyed, said the policemen acted with intimidation.

Mayabang, talagang, ‘Ano to, ano yan?’ Parang pagmamay-ari yung lugar. Talagang naninindak sila, at alam naman talaga nilang nakakasindak sila,” said Mendoza. (They were arrogant, saying, "What's this, what's that?" as if they own the place. They intended to intimidate because they knew they could can intimidate us.)

In the petition, residents covered by QC Police Station 6 questioned the drug testing of household members, while residents covered by Station 10 questioned the house-to-house visitation where they were asked to fill out a form. The form included questions on whether any of their family members are involved with drugs. Both are urban poor communities.

Eleazar confirmed his policemen had played a role in the operations. He insisted that barangay officials, through the Barangay Anti-Drugs Council (BADAC), are authorized to carry out such. Policemen are expected to escort the officials, Eleazar said.

It so happened na mayroong pulis na naging overzealous, may survey form pa, wala sa policy 'yun, kaya nung nalaman ko, sabi ko na itigil na 'yun,” Eleazar said.

(It so happened that some policemen were overzealous, they used a survey form which is not included in the policy. When I found out, I ordered to stop it.)

Asked to respond to petitioners’ allegations of the cops’ "hostile" conduct, Eleazar said that had yet to be proven. 

I’ll see to it na hindi na mangyayari 'yun, hindi puwede talagang magyabang. The directive as of now [ay] ayusin ang pakikitungo,” the police chief said. (I'll see to it that it will never happen again, they cannot be arrogant. The directive now is to conduct themselves properly.)

'Doing our job'

Petitioner Mendoza claimed the cops conduct their operations late at night. Eleazar denied this.

“Wala 'yun, negative 'yun. Baka ang nakikita nila 'yung mga pulis na nagro-roving for curfew, baka 'yun gusto pa nila isama. They cannot prevent us [from doing] our jobs,” Eleazar said.

(That didn't happen, that's negative. Maybe they saw the policemen who were roving to apprehend curfew violators. Maybe they want to contest even that. They cannot prevent us from doing our jobs.)

Eleazar said they cannot be prohibited from providing security to barangay officials conducting the anti-drug operations. He added it should be the barangay officials whom petitioners should question, not the police.

Lawyer Conti said: “Even though barangay officials are not law enforcement officers, they still play a part. Klaro na what they are doing is part of Oplan Tokhang (It's clear that what they are doing is part of Oplan TokHang). That admission does not help him any bit.” 

Failing to get a TRO, the petitioners’ lawyers moved to get a preliminary injunction instead. As Conti explained, if the TRO was denied because “there is no extreme urgency” to stop the operations, the injunction will be decided based on merits.

“We will still point that out [that the operation] is unconstitutional because they will use the information, that police access to such information is unconstitutional. The survey form is still contrary to the right against discrimination,” Conti said.

Judge Aguba scheduled the hearing for the preliminary injunction on September 20, 26, and October 9, 16.

"Nakakatakot 'yung petition kasi makikilala nila ako, na ako 'yung nagreklamo. Pero mas nakakatakot 'yung hindi kikibo, nakakatakot na uubusin nila kami nang walang kalaban-laban," Mendoza said. (I am scared of this petition because now they know me as the complainant. But I am more scared of not speaking out, I am scared that we might be finished off helplessly.)

The petition was filed amid public outrage over the cases of teenagers Kian delos Santos and Carl Angelo Arnaiz, who were killed by policemen, whom investigators found to have abused their authority in conducting anti-drug operations. Rappler.com

 

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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