The decision of Quezon CIty Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) Branch 133 to acquit Efren Morillo, a known drug war survivor, of the charge of direct assault is a testament to the importance of pursuing truth so that justice may prevail.
The court’s verdict came six years after officers from Quezon City police allegedly conducted a drug operation in Payatas in August 2016, which left four people killed and Morillo surviving the incident. After discovering that he was being treated and alive after being shot, law enforcers charged Morillo of direct assault after claiming that he fought back or ‘nanlaban’ during the said drug operation.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) welcomes this decision and acknowledges the efforts of MeTC Branch 133 in its careful and judicious trial of the case, as well as the Center for International Law and Butuyan & Rayel Law for assisting Morillo in achieving justice.
It may be recalled that CHR also investigated this case and eventually resolved in 2018 that Morillo, alongside other victims who were killed during the drug raid, “were unlawfully arrested and summarily executed by the respondents-policemen.” The said CHR Resolution affirmed that said acts were human rights violations committed by enforcement authorities in the form of arbitrary arrest and arbitrary deprivation of life. Financial assistance was also granted to Morillo, including the next-of-kin of the other victims, as a form of reparation due to the human rights violation committed. To date, CHR is similarly monitoring the administrative and criminal complaints filed against the policemen involved pending before the Office of the Ombudsman.
CHR, as the country’s independent human rights institution, remains unwavering in our call for the government to scrutinize all cases of human rights violations allegedly linked to the previous government’s drug campaign, including cases of alleged extrajudicial killings.
Presumption of regularity in the performance of a public official’s functions cannot be used as a shield for deliberately debasing human rights and dignity. CHR remains open and willing to work with government in implementing the recommendations we offered in the CHR Report on Investigated Killings in Relation to the Anti-Illegal Drug Campaign released in 2022 so that the country may move forward with policies more aligned with human rights-based approaches to governance, including in the area of peace and order. ###
 Report on Investigated Killings in Relation to the Anti-Illegal Drug Campaign (EJK Report). May 2022. https://chr.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/CHR-National-Report-April-2022-Full-Final.pdf