Gov’t admission of drug war lapses not surprising, says Ateneo rights center

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 26 2021 04:37 PM

Gov’t admission of drug war lapses not surprising, says Ateneo rights center 1
Relatives of victims of war on drugs hold a protest in front of the Philippine National Police in Quezon City on July 17, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - The Ateneo Human Rights Center said Friday it was not surprised to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra's admission that lapses were made by law enforcers in the conduct of war on drugs.

"We were no longer surprised . . . In fact, what Secretary Menardo Guevarra has mentioned before the United Nations Human Rights Council is what many human rights groups have been telling everyone since Day 1 of this war on drugs," lawyer Ray Santiago, executive director of AHRC.

But still it's a welcome development in addressing alleged impunity in the country, he added.

Santiago said Guevarra's pronouncement lent credence to the stand of human rights groups about "recycling of evidence and the lack of investigation being done by the police."

It was the first time that a top official acknowledged wide-scale lapses in the government's campaign against illicit drugs, the centerpiece platform of President Rodrigo Duterte's administration.

Santiago said he believed there are government officials who still want justice to prevail.

"Of course, there would also be speculations that the justice secretary is doing this in order to cover up any wrongdoings that might be attributed to someone much higher. But definitely in the fight for justice and truth, it is always most welcome to be able to get information like this," he added.

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Speaking from Manila at a high-level meeting at the 46th regular session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, Guevarra that weapons recovered from operations were not fully examined.

“It was also noted that among others, in more than half of the records reviewed, the law enforcement agents involved failed to follow standard protocols pertaining to coordination with other agencies and the processing of the crime scene,” he added.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in June released a report documenting widespread human rights violations and persistent impunity in the Philippines.

The drug war review is a major commitment by the Philippines to the UNHRC, seen by groups as the government’s way of evading a full-blown independent international investigation into the drug war. 

More than 5,000 people were killed in the brutal campaign, according to government figures. Rights groups placed the toll at more than 30,000.

In December, the International Criminal Court Office of the Prosecutor also released a report saying there was “reasonable basis” to believe that crimes against humanity took place in the country from July 1, 2016 when President Duterte took office until March 16, 2019, when the Philippines’ withdrawal from the ICC took effect.