Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has welcomed the ruling of the Supreme Court (SC) ordering the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to furnish petitioners copies of previously withheld police documents related to the government’s drug war.
De Lima, the staunchest critic of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs, said she considers the High Court’s ruling as a welcome development in ensuring accountability for all the killings promoted by the government.
“We regard this ruling as an important progress, albeit small, to achieve justice for ‘tokhang’ victims and their families left behind. This will allow for scrutiny of documents recording the thousands of deaths that occurred during police operations in the drug war,” she said.
Last April 2, SC Spokesman Brian Keith Hosaka announced that the High Tribunal ordered the OSG to submit the police documents on the 20,000 or more killings linked to the government’s anti-drug campaign, with copies furnishing the petitioners.
The petitioners were the Center for International Law (Centerlaw), a rights advocacy group, and the Free Legal Assistance Group, which represents alleged victims of the drug war led by Sister Ma. Juanita Daño.
The SC en banc reportedly voted unanimously to deny Solicitor General Jose Calida’s motion for reconsideration (MR) to avoid submitting the documents to third parties and keep them only between the government and the Court.
Note that while Calida already submitted the said documents exclusive for the eyes of magistrates after an earlier SC ruling, he had refused to furnish copies to FLAG and Centerlaw, citing national security concerns.
De Lima, a known human rights defender here and abroad, said it should be easy for Calida to release the documents “if the government has nothing to hide.”
“There is nothing wrong with transparency when we talk about human lives. We need to expose the truth behind Duterte’s murderous drug war which worsens the climate of fear and impunity in the Philippines,” she said.
“Ngayon na ang hatol ay nanggaling na sa katas-taasang hukuman, wala ka nang dahilan para hindi isumite ang kopya ng mga dokumento, Mr. Calida. Tama na ang pagpapalusot niyo para lang pagtakpan ang patayan sa ilalim ng administrasyong Duterte!” she added.
The Duterte administration only recognized 5,000 of the reported 20,000 or more cases of killings that were caused by police operations, with most of the victims coming from poor families. De Lima is the first to call for a Senate inquiry and later, an independent fact-finding commission to investigate cases of extrajudicial and summary killings in the country, which earned her the President’s ire and eventually led to her incarceration for trumped-up drug charges.