Residents of slums in San Andres Bukid, Manila, including relatives of slain drug suspects, on Wednesday filed a class suit in the Supreme Court against the Philippine National Police to keep their neighborhood safe from policemen.
The petitioners urged the high court to grant a writ of amparo to protect them from harassment by members of Station 6 of the Manila Police District (MPD), which has jurisdiction over San Andres Bukid.
The petitioners also sought the tribunal’s intervention to stop the police from turning their community into a “killing field” and to order the administrative relief of the entire MPD Station 6 force.
It was the fifth petition filed in the high court questioning President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war, which has led to the killings of at least 4,000 suspects in police operations and thousands more in vigilante attacks.
The petition filed by the Center for International Law said the slums “have become a veritable killing field.”
“The unabated killings in San Andres must not evolve into a culture of passive tolerance and defeated resignation over the seeming ordinariness and banality of the taking of human life in the war on drugs,” the petitioners said.
“By banding together, petitioners, though fearful still, have found their courage and are now asking this government to recognize and respect the dignity of their persons as human beings,” they added.
The petitioners, led by Catholic nun Ma. Juanita Dano, submitted 39 sworn affidavits regarding the killing of 35 residents and the arrest of eight “innocent individuals.”
Named respondents were PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa; Chief Supt. Joel Coronel, head of the MPD; Supt. Olivia Sagaysay, commander of MPD Station 6; and 16 other police officers.
“This petition tells of the systematic violence perpetrated by or wrought in conspiracy with the respondents… over the urban poor community of San Andres Bukid… and its adjacent areas in general, and the dead victims, the petitioners and their families,” the petition said.
“It tells of the arrest of the innocent wives, partners, mothers, brothers, sisters, relatives or/and even neighbors of the victims and falsely charging them with illegal possession of drugs or conspiracy with the persons killed,” it added.
Sister Dano initiated the documentation of 35 drug killings in San Andres Bukid after the Duterte administration launched its crackdown on narcotics last year.
Most of the killings were perpetrated by masked gunmen while the others were due to questionable police operations “carried out in the dead of the night.”
The residents surmised that members of MPD Station 6 had knowledge of the vigilante killings as some of them were stationed in the area “before and during” the attacks of masked gunmen.
“The consistent impunity and persistent audacity of armed men who forcibly enter and barge into houses, without fear of policemen, are among the many indications and manifestations which show that the police killings, and most if not all of the vigilante killings, are not random and unplanned, but part of a systematic design and organized strategy,” they said.
The residents also noted that the CCTVs installed in their communities were disabled by the policemen before conducting drug raids.
“This is how the residents in the slum communities in and around San Andres Bukid have been terrorized and cowed into fearful submission not to seek redress for the threats to and violation of their rights to life, liberty and security,” they lamented.
Amid mounting criticisms, Mr. Duterte last week removed from the PNP the task of prosecuting the war on drugs. He designated the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency as the sole entity that would carry out operations against the narcotics trade.