Philippines to UN: Drug war findings to be made public if cases are filed

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 08 2021 12:32 PM

Workers carry the remains of an alleged drug war victim after exhumation at the Manila North Cemetery on Sept. 17, 2021. Several remains were exhumed after the leases on their graves expired. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File
Workers carry the remains of an alleged drug war victim after exhumation at the Manila North Cemetery on Sept. 17, 2021. Several remains were exhumed after the leases on their graves expired. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — The Philippines will make public findings of its drug war review if it leads to the filing of cases, Malacañang said on Friday, following an appeal from the United Nations (UN) human rights office. 

Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said on Thursday that while the Philippine justice department's review was an "initial development," it needed to be made public "so its work can be evaluated."

"Wala pong itinatago ‘yong imbestigasyon ng DOJ," said Palace spokesman Harry Roque. 
 
(The investigation of the DOJ is hiding nothing.)

"Kapag natapos po ang imbestigasyon at kinakailangan magsampa ng kaso, isasapubliko po lahat ‘yan dahil lahat naman po ng sinasampang records sa ating hukuman ay public documents," he said in a televised public briefing. 

(Once the investigation is complete and if cases need to filed, all of that will be made public because all records filed with our courts are public documents.) 
 
The initial investigation by the Philippine government has found 154 police officers could be criminally liable over their conduct in the ani-narcotics campaign. 

The justice department announced the findings last week, after the International Criminal Court (ICC) approved a formal investigation into thousands of killings of alleged drug dealers since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016. 

"The police officers involved in these cases were not only administratively liable. The existing evidence pointed to their possible criminal liability as well," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters, without elaborating.
 
The government had said it will not cooperate with the ICC probe because the Philippines has a justice system that is functioning.

Britain's Karim Khan, prosecutor of the ICC, said on Thursday on Thursday reiterated the court has authority over alleged crimes against humanity that took place in the drug war despite the country's withdrawal from the treaty that created the tribunal. 

"My investigation will seek to uncover the truth and aim to ensure accountability. We will focus our efforts on ensuring a successful, independent and impartial investigation," Khan said.

"In doing so, we aim to bring justice to the victims and affected communities, and count on the support and cooperation of States Parties, civil society and other partners."

Asked if government agreed the ICC probe would bare the truth, Roque said, "Sana po pero without the cooperation of the state mahihirapan po sila to uncover the truth." 

(It is hoped, but without the cooperation of the state, they will find it difficult to uncover the truth.)

"Ang sa akin lang naman po, kung meron talagang mga may reklamo laban sa drug war isampa po natin dito sa Pilipinas nang mabigyan kayo ng katarungan," he added. 

(For me, if someone really has a complaint against the drug war, let's just file it in the Philippines so that you can get justice.)
 
Activists, however, say systematic cover-ups and executions of thousands of users and pushers have not been prosecuted. Police have denied wrongdoing and say the killings were in self-defense.
 
The drug war review, according to government, was part of Duterte's commitment before the United Nations General Assembly that police responsible for murder would be held accountable.

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Police and the justice department reviewed 52 cases where suspects were killed in what police recorded as anti-narcotics operations. Those would be sent to state investigators for further action, Guevarra said.

He said 100 more cases would be looked at, which were pending preliminary investigation or under court trial.

Officially, 6,200 drug suspects were killed in what police said were sting operations where suspects resisted arrest.

Activists say many thousands more people, mostly users or small-time dealers, were killed in slum communities by mystery gunmen. Police have denied involvement in those deaths. 
 
— With a report from Reuters