No SOCO, no 'nanlaban' probe: DOJ review sees lapses in some drug war ops

Benise Balaoing, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 05 2021 11:17 AM | Updated as of Oct 05 2021 04:02 PM

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MANILA – Proper procedures were not followed by the police in many of the cases the Department of Justice (DOJ) is now looking into as part of its second review of the administration's drug war, a department official said Tuesday.

Undersecretary Adrian Sugay said they recently looked into 51 cases from the files of the Philippine National Police on operations conducted in the government’s anti-narcotics campaign.

“We found many of those instances, many instances in these 51 case folders where the procedures were not followed,” he said.

“We talk about the lack of, for instanc,e (Scene of the Crime Operative) reports, the lack of any attempt on the part of police officers to determine the probable ownership or possible ownership of the firearms found allegedly in the possession of the subjects of the illegal drug operations, talk about the lack of paraffin tests, ballistics tests, or even instance where for instance you know they claim the subject fired back at them or first fired at them, a firearm or weapon.”

“And yet, you know in those instances there are paraffin tests which show that in fact the subject did not fire a firearm since no gunpowder nitrates were found on the hands of the dead subjects. So, these are the issues we found again,” he said. 

“They are very similar to the initial batch of case folders which we reviewed back in December 2020,” he added. 

In their first review of the drug war, the DOJ found that weapons used in supposedly “nanlaban” cases were not fully examined.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra over the weekend said they have found "possible criminal liability" on the part of police officers involved in the cases in their second drug war review.

Around 154 police officers were involved in the cases, according to Guevarra.

Asked if they found cases of weapons not being fully reviewed in their second review, Sugay answered in the affirmative.

“Yes. In most cases like in the initial batch of case folders which were reviewed, you talk about [how] normally instance like this, it’s one of the things that the police is supposed to do is to determine the ownership of the weapon which was allegedly used by the subject of the illegal drug operations, in many of the cases which we reviewed. Again, (in) the second batch of cases, no such verification was done.”

Sugay said they now leave it up to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to decide whether or not to file charges against allegedly erring police officers.

“If the NBI finds that there’s enough to show that indeed, you know, these were not legitimate police operations, and these were in fact cases where there was deliberate intent to kill the subject of the police operations, the supposed anti-illegal drugs operations, then maybe the NBI may determine that the possible murder cases may be filed against these police officers,” he said.

“Otherwise you know the default is homicide,” he added.

Sugay said the DOJ will deal with these cases objectively.

“We will ensure that these cases are properly investigated and proper case buildup is done, and that those who may have erred in their participation in this anti-illegal drug operations are properly made to account for their actions,” he said.

Last month, the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced it would investigate President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war campaign, which has killed thousands of suspected drug users and other civilians during law enforcement operations.

Malacañang has several times said Duterte would not participate in the ICC's probe.

A Makabayan bloc lawmaker called on the DOJ to go after all cops tagged in deaths due to the drug war.

"Why limit the filing of cases to 52 killings of drug suspects only when the PNP itself admitted that there were 6,000 more or less drug suspects who were killed since July 1, 2016 in this bloody drug war?" Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said in a statement. 

"That number of cases is barely 0.9% of the total senseless deaths even if we based it only on the official numbers admitted by the PNP," he said. 

Zarate said victims need the DOJ's assurance that all drug-related killings would be thoroughly investigated. 

"Justice is the only consolation the families of the victims can demand now."

--ANC, 5 October 2021