‘Ridiculous,’ SC says on drug war records as ‘national security’

Several times, President Rodrigo Duterte has proudly taken responsibility for the killings in his bloody campaign against illegal drugs. It goes without saying, therefore, that the prosecution of the drug-related killings would have to reach his level.

If he thinks that citing “national security” will save him and the top officials who implemented his war on drugs, including his first police chief, now Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, from being accountable for all those killings, he is wrong.

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) already used that line in the 2018 case of Aileen Almora, et al. Vs. Director General Ronald Dela Rosa, et al./Sr. Ma. Juanita R. Daño, et al. Vs. The Philippine National Police, et al. and the Supreme Court vehemently rejected it.
The Supreme Court’s words: “It is simply ridiculous to claim that these information and documents on police operations against drug pushers and users involve national security matter.”

In his Talk to the People last May 31, Duterte lengthily defended the Philippine National Police in refusing to make public records of police operations in the war on drugs.

He said: “Now this is really a lesson for the human rights; everyday until now nandiyan ‘yan. I suggest that you go to the police and look into the records of these deaths. Now gusto ninyong kunin, may — hindi namin maibigay lahat not because we are hiding some facts that [are] known to us, unknown to you. Eh kasali na dito ‘yong — eh national security issue ‘to eh kagaya rin ng mga NPA. We have records that those who have died but who have derogatory records in our files and may mga references sila na tao and what they do, we cannot divulge it to anybody but only to the military and to the police.”

He said he himself has not asked for it. “I do not even know kung sino ‘yang mga ‘yan. I do not ask [for] it and I do not bother to really go out of my way knowing because kasali ako sa mga tao na hindi alam. What I get is the result of the operations. But as to the basis and to the people involved and suspects and ‘yong mga references nila at ‘yong mga sources ng information, this cannot be revealed,” he added.

He further said: “As a matter of fact, ang sinabi ko itong mga pulis o military who perform their duties and had to kill their adversaries, lalo na sa droga pati itong mga NPA, hindi ho namin puwede ibigay lahat. You can go into the… maybe query as to how the battle was fought, how the gunfight started. But pero kung sabihin mo what prompted the police and the military to go into this kind of operation based on their reports and collated mga dossier, hindi ho ninyo puwedeng pakialaman ‘yan. Truth — as a matter of fact, sabihin ko totoo ‘yan. Maski tanungin ninyo, ni hindi ako minsan nagtanong kung ano-ano ‘yan.It’s because I know that it’s just confidential. And kung hindi nila ipresenta sa akin, I do not ask for it.
“Kaya ako mismo hindi naka — nakakakita ng mga records na ‘yan. And I can understand when the military and the police would withhold them kasi hindi talaga dapat malaman ninyo. Iyan ang na … you know … hindi dito sabihin mo na public documents. “
It is Duterte’s choice if he is not interested to see the documentation of the killings based on his orders. But the public should not be prevented from knowing the truth.
The Supreme Court was very clear about this when the OSG refused to submit documents demanded by the relatives of the victims which include, among others, list of persons killed in legitimate police operations from July 1, 2016 to Nov. 30, 2018; list of deaths under investigation from July 1, 2016 to November 30, 2017; list of Chinese and Fil-Chinese drug lords who have been neutralized; and, list of drugs involved, whether shabu, cocaine, marijuana, or opioids.
The OSG unilaterally categorized the documents and claimed that those under Category 1 “contain very sensitive information with law enforcement and national security implications.”

The Supreme Court reprimanded the OSG, saying it “cannot unilaterally arrogate to itself the power to determine which documents it should furnish petitioners.”

The High Court also reminded the OSG of its earlier Resolution that “the requested information and documents do not obviously involve state secrets affecting national security.”

“The information and documents relate to routine police operations involving violations of laws against the sale or use of illegal drugs. There is no showing that the country’s territorial integrity, national sovereignty, independence, or foreign relations will be compromised or prejudiced by the release of these information and documents to this Court or even to the public. These information and documents do not involve rebellion, invasion, terrorism, espionage, infringement of our sovereignty or sovereign rights by foreign powers, or any military, diplomatic or state secret involving national security,“ it added.

The High Court declared: “It is simply ridiculous to claim that these information and documents on police operations against drug pushers and users involve national security matter.”

Ridiculous, indeed!

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This column appeared also in ABS-CBN online and VERA Files

Why does DOJ need PNP consent to probe cops in drug war?

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra is very grateful and called it a “very significant milestone” because it “did not happen in previous years.”

This is no different from President Duterte thanking China for allowing Filipino fishermen to fish in the area of Scarborough Shoal, a Philippine territory. But that’s another topic that requires a separate discussion.

This so-called “very significant milestone” came after a meeting with newly installed PNP chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar who said this is being done to dispel allegations that they are hiding facts on the killings from the public to protect the law enforcers involved in carrying out Duterte’s brutal banner program that has elicited international concern and condemnation.

No one is biting the bait, especially the families of the victims and their lawyers.

Not Joel Butuyan of Centerlaw, which represents families of the victims of the drug war in 28 barangays in San Andres Bukid.

Butuyan said: “The fact that the PNP’s consent is required for the DOJ to investigate the deaths in the hands of policemen is in itself anomalous.”

“The DOJ is supposed to have unobstructed leeway to conduct investigations when deaths occur in the hands of policemen. In fact, under DOJ rules, when death occurs during a police investigation, the police are required to submit all relevant documents to the prosecutors and the prosecutors are mandated to conduct a preliminary investigation. So, all deaths in the hands of policemen should have been investigated by the DOJ, and the police should submit all documents, not just the 61 deaths in question,” he added.

The 61 cases constitute less than 1% of the more than 7,000 that the government uses as the number of deaths during police anti-illegal drugs operations. Human rights advocates say the numbers could be higher.

The 61 cases, Guevarra said, had been reviewed and evaluated by the PNP Internal Affairs Service which had found administrative/criminal liability on the part of law enforcement agents.

Edre Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL)-Philippines that also represents several families of victims of Duterte’s drug war, is wary that “it might be another tokenistic and cynical mirage, a puny, even if sincere, desire at real institutional reforms that actually go far beyond them alone.”

He said victims, families and witnesses in the so-called drug war and rights advocates “cannot be euphoric at this supposed shift.”

“With grounded disbelief, they should see it for what it might be: a finger to plug the hole in the dam i.e. to deflect and dissipate overwhelming criticisms over the lack of immediate, fair and comprehensive accountability,” he said in a statement.

“That only 61 cases are currently seen with ‘clear liability’ out of the thousands of cases that are supposedly within the purview of the drug war panel review is simply incredible and scanty when seen in the context of the records, experience and reality over time,” he noted.

“The disclosure of the records, given the inordinate delay, the hemming and hedging, the issues of transparency, impartiality and independence, and the insultingly petty number to be made available, may even eventually validate the view that it may have been sanitized and cherry picked to be used as possible ‘showcases,’ inconclusive or not emblematic as they may turn out to be,” Olalia said.

The international Human Rights Watch describes the PNP-DOJ collaboration as “a breakthrough” while noting that Metro Manila police chief Eleazar was a key enforcer of Duterte’s drug war.

With only five months before his retirement, HRW said: “If Eleazar is serious about these reforms, he should ensure the police’s full cooperation with investigators into the ‘drug war’ killings and take more concrete steps to hold abusive officers accountable.”

Families of drug-war related extra-judicial killings had long ago demanded access to police records of the operation but were denied despite repeated orders from the Supreme Court.

Finally in May 2019, the PNP and the Office of the Solicitor General submitted to the High Court 289 compact discs supposedly containing information on the 20,322 drug-related deaths as mentioned in the government’s 2017 Accomplishment Report.

But the documents turned out to be “rubbish,” CenterLaw said, as discs contained irrelevant non-drug related cases like a “love triangle” in which the suspect was the live-in partner who got jealous of the deceased victim and a killing caused by a misunderstanding over a videoke song.

CenterLaw accused the PNP and OSG of resorting to “underhanded machinations.”

“What the OSG and PNP virtually want is for the Supreme Court and the petitioners to utterly waste valuable time and resources examining case files which are totally irrelevant and, in fact, absolutely rubbish insofar as the instant cases are concerned,” it said.

The timing of this PNP-DOJ cooperation makes us suspicious that it is more for the consumption of the International Criminal Court (ICC) that is expected to release its decision on the result of the preliminary examination of the situation in the Philippines before Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda retires on June 15.

The ICC, in its website, states: “Specifically, it has been alleged that since 1 July 2016, thousands of persons have been killed for reasons related to their alleged involvement in illegal drug use or dealing. While some of such killings have reportedly occurred in the context of clashes between or within gangs, it is alleged that many of the reported incidents involved extra-judicial killings in the course of police anti-drug operations.”

Once the ICC decides to open an investigation, investigators would start collecting evidence. Summons would be issued. Refusal to cooperate could lead to issuance of warrants of arrest and freezing of assets.

The Rome Statute that created the ICC provides that it is the duty of every state to exercise its jurisdiction over those responsible for committing international crimes. The ICC can intervene only when it sees that the government is “unable or unwilling” to “genuinely” carry out the investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators.

Guevarra, addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council last Feb. 24 said: ”We reject any attempt by any external entity to assume jurisdiction over internal matters which are being addressed more than adequately by our national institutions and authorities.”

Does access to records of 61 out of more than 7,000 cases enough to disprove the inability and unwillingness of the Duterte government to prosecute those involved in the killings of thousands upon the orders of President Rodrigo Duterte?

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This column appeared also in:
abs-cbnonline

VERA Files

Malaya Business Insight

Liar

No, the jet ski boast was not a joke. It was a lie.

Joke is defined by Merriam-Webster as something said or done to provoke laughter while a lie is an untrue statement made with the intention to deceive.

It was a lie, planned with his campaign staff, which he used in almost all of his 2016 campaign rallies, complete with flag-kissing. There was the INTENTION to deceive.

And indeed, 16.6 million were deceived. And Rodrigo Duterte became the 16th president of the Republic of the Philippines.
It was another lie, on top of a lie, when he said it was a joke, when asked to account for his campaign promises. He kept on repeating that lie, the latest of which was last May 10 when, during his weekly televised talk, he said that those who believed his ”joke“ were stupid.
Talk about adding insult to injury.

In his own words:

“Panahon sa kampa — panahon sa kampanya ‘yan. At saka ‘yong biro na ‘yon, ‘yong delabra — we call it “bravado,” ‘yong bravado ko that was just a pure campaign joke.

“At kung naniniwala kayo sa kabila, pati na siguro si Carpio pati si — I would say that you are really stupid. Sige, maghanap ka ng tao dito magpunta ng jet ski. Hindi pa mag-abot pa ng ilang oras I would conk out in the middle of the sea … ýung naniniwala kayo niyan, I really do not know if you — if you harp on that, it’s — it’s a pure … I was not taking lightly the sovereignty but it was a pure joke actually, but just to emphasize na talagang hinaluan ko lang ng biro.
“Isipin ninyo kung paano maging totoo ‘yan, matutunaw ‘yong utak ninyo. Maniwala sa jet ski p**…’”

(That was during a campaign. And that joke was, in other words, — we call it bravado, that bravado was just a pure campaign joke.

And if you believe on the other side, maybe including Carpio and … I would say that you are really stupid. Go, look for someone who would go with a jet ski. Even before a few hours later I would conk out in the middle of the sea … those who believe that, I really do not know if you — if you harp on that, it’s — it’s just a pure — I was not taking lightly the sovereignty but it was a pure joke actually, but just to emphasize that, I injected humor into it.

Think how it can be true, your brains will melt. Believe in jet ski …p**…)

By constantly repeating the jet ski lie as a joke, Duterte has come to believe it. Stupid is he who believes his own lie.

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This column appeared also in:

https://verafiles.org/articles/liar

https://news.abs-cbn.com/blogs/opinions/05/17/21/duterte-jet-ski-joke-ellen-tordesillas

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Medical bulletin, not staged photos, please!


Instead of having Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go post staged photos to prove that President Rodrigo Duterte is alive, why doesn’t Malacañang release a medical bulletin on the chief executive’s health?

That should end once and for all talks about his health, which has become so unhealthy not only for him but also for the public.

The president was last seen live on TV on March 29. He missed his April 5 televised briefing.

The talks about the president’s health have become morbid as it was reported that at least 45 members of the Presidential Security Group tested positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and presidential spokesperson Harry Roque is in the hospital, also for COVID-19.

The report about his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, going to Singapore for “personal health management” has added fuel to the rumors.

To prove that the president is alive, Go released on April 7, Wednesday, a picture of Duterte and him in what looks like an office, with the Philippine Star issue of that day on the table.

April 9, Friday, was Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor). There was only a written message from the president. There was no video message even if his spokesperson assured that the President “remains fit and healthy for his age” at 76.

On April 10, Saturday, Go released a set of photos and a short video showing the president jogging at night. One photo showed him riding a motorbike that was, of course, stationary. There was no indication when it was taken.

The photos only fueled more speculations. Why was it taken at night? Except for the one with Duterte on a bike, the pictures of him walking and jogging, or trying to jog, were long shots. Keen observers noticed that the person jogging had no paunch. Was that a double?

We will leave the forensics of those photos to the experts.

Meanwhile, tigilan na, please! Just release a medical bulletin!

Section 12 of Art. VII of the Constitution states: “In case of serious illness of the President, the public shall be informed of the state of his health.”

Truth will find its way out

Screen grab from video showing President Duterte attempting to grope the woman bringing him his birthday cake.

Presidential-aide-turned-senator Christopher “Bong” Go recently tried to mislead the public with a cropped photo of President Rodrigo Duterte having a “simple” birthday celebration.

Unfortunately for him and fortunately for the public, the truth came out. It’s a stinging reminder of the superiority of truth over lies.

On Duterte’s 76th birthday, Go posted on his Facebook account a photo of the president blowing a candle over a cup of rice with a caption that read: “Sa matagal na panahong kasama ko ang Pangulo, marami akong hinangaan at natutunan sa kanya. Isa na dito ang kanyang simpleng pagkatao. Bawat kaarawan niya, kahit kailan ay hindi po yun nagpa-party o nag-celebrate.

“Kaya sa loob ng 23 taon na aming pagsasama, pinili ko ring hindi magparty sa tuwing panahon ng kaarawan ko katulad niya.

“Ngayong kaarawan ni Tatay Digong, samahan natin siya sa simpleng pagdarasal at pasasalamat sa Panginoon. Marami pa namang selebrasyon sa buhay natin. Ang importante ngayon ay alalahanin natin na buhay tayo at patuloy tayong magtulungan at malampasan natin ang krisis na ito.”

At least one newspaper picked up Go’s line of the president having a simple birthday celebration.

Sen. Bong Go’s FB post

Shortly after, a video circulated online showing Duterte’s birthday celebration. Obviously, it was not as simple as what Go wanted the public to swallow. The table was laden with more food, including a lechon.

“Simple” is relative. A seven-dish birthday celebration may be “simple” to Duterte and Go but it’s a feast to families who have to scrounge for their daily meal.

The video revealed another appalling truth: Duterte was seen trying to grope the woman who was bringing him a birthday cake. Another proof of the sordidness of his character.

Go’s misleading FB post was clearly a disinformation because there was an intention to mislead, deliberately omitting the lechon and other dishes on the table.

We do not know what other features of Duterte’s 76th birthday that Go did not share with the public.

It may be recalled that one of the revelations of the Duterte BPI bank accounts exposed by then senator Antonio Trillanes IV in 2016 was the huge deposits that came into the joint account of then Davao City mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte and his daughter Sara Z. Duterte in BPI, Julia Vargas branch in Ortigas Center on March 28, 2014, Duterte’s 69th birthday.
Seven deposits totalling P193, 705,615. 88 were credited to the joint account. The first was in the amount of P55,131,747.32, followed by P41,721,035.62. Then four deposits in the amount of P20,000,000.00 each came in. The last deposit for the day was in the amount of P16,852,832.94.

Initially, Duterte denied the existence of the bank account. But when bank deposits to the account disproved him, Duterte said the seven deposits on his birthday simply meant, “Ibig sabihin niyan marami akong kaibigan na mayaman. (It just means I have many rich friends.)”
VERA Files obtained the bank records from the Senate Record where Trillanes IV submitted the documents. These are the same documents that were submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman when Trillanes filed a plunder case against Duterte.

Then Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang, who was in-charge of the case, was suspended and later on dismissed. He is appealing his case before the Court of Appeals. The current Ombudsman has considered the case closed and terminated.

But just like what happened in his 76th “simple” birthday celebration, truth will find its way out. And just like the other truth of Duterte’s groping of their kasambahay, the public may be in for more appalling truths.