SolGen refuses to give SC drug war documents

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 13) — Citing national security, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) has declined to comply with a Supreme Court directive to submit documents related to the drug war.

In a 14-page motion for reconsideration dated December 18, the OSG said the documents, including the drug watchlist and list of high-valued target arrests, contain information and other sensitive matters that "in the long run will have undeniable effect on national security."

"It could spell the success or failure of follow-up operations of police and other law enforcement bodies, aside from endangering the lives of those on the list as well as those already in custody," Solicitor General Jose Calida explained.

During the December 5, 2017 oral arguments on the petitions against war on drugs, the High Court directed the OSG to submit within 60 days documents including the following:

  1. List of persons killed in legitimate police operations from July 1, 2016 to November 30, 2017
  2. List of deaths under investigation from July 1, 2016 to November 30, 2017
  3. List of Chinese and Fil-Chinese drug lords who have been neutralized
  4. List of drugs involved whether shabu, cocaine, marijuana, opioids, etc.
  5. Comparative tables in index crimes
  6. Statistics of internal cleansing within the police force
  7. Drug watchlists in affected areas
  8. List of warrants and warrantless arrests in High Value Target (HVT) police operations
  9. List of cases under investigation under Internal Affairs Service

The OSG said the right to information, with its companion right of access to official records, is not absolute.

The Constitution provides that the people's right to know is limited to "matters of public concern," it pointed out.

"Their submission would not only compromise ongoing police anti-drug operations but likewise put at risk the lives of informants who provide such information," Calida said.

The OSG also said the Supreme Court order might set a dangerous precedent for pending and future Amparo petitions.

The writ of amparo is "a remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty and security is violated or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity."

It argued this would open the floodgates for the filing of baseless cases that "aim at nothing other than engaging in fishing expeditions."

"Moreover, Amparo petitions may be utilized and manipulated by drug syndicates themselves to discover the amount of confidential information that the government has against them," it noted.

Calida further said in requiring the submission of documents, the Supreme Court has "ventured into unwarranted factual inquiries," adding that it is not a trier of facts. 

"In resolving constitutional issues, it is not allowed to received and weigh evidence," Calida said of the High Court.