Gov't asks SC to extend deadline to submit drug war documents

MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) has asked the Supreme Court (SC) for a two-month extension to complete its submission of tens of thousands of documents related to the police’s war on drugs.

“The respondents respectfully request an extension of sixty days from April 26, 2018, or until June 25, 2018, to submit the other documents required by this Honorable Court,” the OSG said in a motion for extension dated April 26, but obtained by Rappler only on Wednesday, May 16.

The SC en banc compelled the government to submit to the Court full documentation of the over 4,000 deaths that resulted from legitimate police anti-drug operations, as well as documents related to the thousands of "deaths under investigation", and records of administrative cases against policemen if any. (READ: TIMELINE: The PNP's use of the term 'deaths under investigation')

Human rights groups have alleged that as many as 20,000 may have been killed in the government's campaign against drugs, where at least 16,355 homicide cases have been classified as "deaths under investigation" from July 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017.

The OSG submitted partial documents on April 26 which included case folders of 34 drug war deaths.

These deaths include those of Ryan Almora, Rex Appari and Jefferson Soriano who are the subjects of the petition filed by the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG). The petition seeks to declare the war on drugs unconstitutional.

The other 30 deaths are among the 35 deaths recorded by the Center for International Law in San Andres Bukid in Manila, also the subjects of a petition filed before the SC seeking to strike down the war on drugs. One case folder is related to the death of SPO3 Dennis Padpad, a retired cop linked to drugs and who was killed in Manila in May 2017. (READ: Lawyers do dirty groundwork to fight Duterte’s drug war)

The SC also asked the OSG to submit drug watch lists, lists of warrants and warrantless arrests in High Value Target (HVT) police operations, and lists of cases under investigation under the Internal Affairs Service.

The documents will test the government claim that all police drug war operations are regular, and that those who died during these operations resisted arrest – the classic narrative of “nanlaban (fought back).”

It will also challenge the government claim that every single death is being investigated. 

Documents

When the SC denied Solicitor General Jose Calida’s appeal not to submit documents because doing so would supposedly risk national security, the High Court noted that there have been “20,322 deaths during the Duterte administration's anti-drug war from July 1, 2016 to November 27, 2017, or an average of 39.46 deaths every day.”

"This Court wants to know why so many deaths happened,” the SC said, saying that the government boasting of the deaths as its accomplishment may be taken to mean they are state-sponsored killings.

Despite being ordered to submit the documents as early as December 5, 2017, the government has submitted only 34 deaths case folders, and summaries of administrative cases filed against policemen.

“The respondents need additional time to submit the other documents required by the Court because said documents will still be collected and validated,” the motion said.

You can see the full list of the government’s partial submission below:

OSG's motion for extension by Lian Nami Buan on Scribd

Conditional compliance?

The OSG’s motion reveals that it was former police chief Ronald dela Rosa who requested them on April 12 to take “appropriate action for the SC to allow them more time to comply with the directives.”

Six days later or on April 18, Dela Rosa and his successor Director Oscar Albayalde said they would release the documents only on the go signal of President Rodrigo Duterte.

By compelling the documents, the SC wants the government to prove that the police reports exist and that they were “prepared as mandated by regulations.”

There is fear that further delays in submission will give the police time to falsify documents. The SC stands to decide on the petitions to declare the war on drugs unconstitutional. (READ: Highlights of the oral arguments Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3)

The SC proceedings are also crucial as International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda determines if she has jurisdiction to investigate Duterte’s war on drugs as alleged crimes against humanity.

The ICC will have jurisdiction if it finds that the Philippines is unwilling or genuinely unable to investigate the killings on its own.

A conditional compliance "can certainly be used to point out unwillingness," said Ray Paolo Santiago, chairperson of the Philippine Coalition for the ICC.

It is unclear at this point whether petitioners will be given access to the documents. 

The OSG’s motion was signed by 7 assistant solicitors general. Solicitor General Jose Calida was listed as being “on leave”. – 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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