Philippine president's drug crackdown faces court challenge

AP News
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Posted: Jan 26, 2017 4:26 AM
Philippine president's drug crackdown faces court challenge

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A survivor of a Philippine police raid that killed four other drug suspects asked the Supreme Court Thursday to stop such operations and help him obtain police records to prove his innocence in a test case against the president's bloody crackdown.

Lawyer Romel Bagares said his client Efren Morillo and other petitioners also asked the court to order police to stop threatening witnesses.

More than 7,000 drug suspects have been killed since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June and ordered the crackdown, alarming human rights group and Western governments.

Four policemen shot Morillo and four other men in impoverished Payatas village in metropolitan Manila in August. Morillo survived and denied police allegations that he and his friends were drug dealers or that they fought back, according to Bagares and the court petition.

Morillo, a 28-year-old vegetable vendor and the four slain men, were garbage collectors who were shot with their hands bound and could not have possibly threatened police, the petition said.

Three of the victims were ordered to kneel on the ground at the back of the shanty before they were shot to death. The last to be killed "begged to be spared, hugging the legs of one of the armed men and sobbing. As he would not let go of his hold, the man shot him on the nape," the petition said.

If the court grants Morillo's petition to indefinitely stop such drug raids in the Payatas community and help him obtain police surveillance records and other documents, it will encourage relatives of drug raid victims and human rights groups to take legal action against the anti-narcotics police.

According to Bagares, police kill drug suspects then make it appear the victims died while fighting back.

"Because he survived the attack of the perpetrators and identified each and every one of them, his life is in grave danger," Bagares said in his petition, which asked the court to prohibit the police officers from entering an area 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the homes and workplaces of Morillo and other petitioners, who include the other men's relatives.

Police officials did not immediately comment on the court petition. National police chief Ronald Dela Rosa told a Senate inquiry Thursday that he opposes suggestions to temporarily stop Duterte's crackdown against illegal drugs due to allegations of extrajudicial killings and other abuses.

While acknowledging that some rogue police may have illegally killed innocent people, Dela Rosa stressed that 33 officers had been killed and more than 100 others wounded in clashes with drug suspects.

The Senate hearing was looking into the killing in October of a South Korean businessman. He was kidnapped by police with the intent of getting ransom from his family but ended up dead at the national police headquarters, police said. After killing the victim, the officers, including two members of an anti-narcotics force, collected ransom from the wife, police said.

The Philippine government has apologized to South Korea for the killing, which has alarmed Korean officials. Dela Rosa said the national police has been shamed but told senators "it's an isolated case."