MANILA – A group of Philippine lawyers filed on Wednesday a petition in the country’s Supreme Court to stop President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial war on drugs, considering it unconstitutional.
The Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) called for precautionary measures against police operations related to the anti-drug campaign, which has claimed more than 7,000 deaths since it started, after Duterte came to power on June 30, 2016.
The petitioners alleged that the police operations manual used the euphemisms “to neutralize” and “to annul” to refer to the action of killing the suspects who resisted arrest, something that is not mentioned in the Constitution.
In their opinion, the guidelines set by the Philippine Government to combat drug trafficking and crime “explicitly authorize summary executions and home invasions in violation of the Constitution and the law,” according to the 47-page petition filed on Wednesday with the Supreme Court in Manila.
The Duterte government “has transformed the Philippine National Police, a law enforcement agency, into a Gestapo force that compiles lists of suspected criminals and targets them for neutralization and negation,” read the FLAG petition.
The violent campaign has left over 3,800 people killed by the police in 15 months, although the total number of dead is estimated to exceed 7,000, owing to additional deaths attributed to individuals and paramilitary militias.
Law enforcement officials are instructed to shoot should suspects – usually alleged drug traffickers or drug addicts – resist arrest, although human rights organizations claim that this guideline is followed in an arbitrary manner.
The deaths of three young people and other irregularities in the anti-drugs campaign in recent months have led to discontent among the Philippine population, prompting the largest demonstration against Duterte so far and a dip in his approval ratings from 78 to 67 percent, from June to September.