MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday authorized the release of an information table regarding the details of 52 cases from the Philippine National Police (PNP) involving deaths during anti-narcotics operations in the country.
The information table includes details such as names of killed suspects and the places and dates of their death.
"This is for the purpose of 1) informing the families and loved ones of the deceased suspects that the circumstances surrounding each incidence of death are undergoing a determination of possible criminal liabilities on the part of erring police officers, and 2) inviting any witnesses or persons with first-hand information helpful to the resolution of the 52 cases to come forward and approach the NBI for the taking of their statements if any," the DOJ said in a statement.
The department earlier referred its review of the cases to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
"These cases are to undergo further investigation and case buildup for the possible filing of criminal charges against erring police officers," the DOJ said.
Justice Undersecretary for Law Enforcement Adrian Sugay said the NBI will reach out to the families of the deceased, or witnesses relevant to the 52 cases. for testimonies.
"Makipag-ugnayan sa (Coordinate with) NBI, so that the NBI can undertake a proper case buildup as far as these cases are concerned," he said in an interview with ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, in a separate statement, said President Rodrigo Duterte "expressly directed the DOJ and the PNP to review the conduct of the war on drugs, and has publicly stated that all those who acted 'beyond bounds' should be held accountable for any unlawful acts or omissions."
"That is a clear signal that transparency in the drug war review will be observed," he said.
Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of People's Lawyers, welcomed the development but noted that the release of the information table on 52 cases is "vulnerable to being viewed more of going through the motions" instead of being a sincere resolution to halt the violent deaths related to the administration's drug war.
"The sound of the trumpeting elephant in the room bellows: why are these extrajudicial killings happening in the first place and why are a puny number of 'erring police officers' taking the fall all alone even at this very overdue time?" he said in a statement.
Guevarra earlier said the DOJ has found "possible criminal liability" on the part of police officers involved in the cases that the department reviewed.
Around 154 cops were involved in the 52 cases.
Guevarra added that the PNP and DOJ would "institutionalize cooperation" in investigating similar cases in the future.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) announced last month it would investigate Duterte's drug war campaign, which left thousands of suspected drug users and others dead during law enforcement operations.
Days after the ICC announced the authorization of the investigation, Duterte told the United Nations that a review of the conduct of the government's violent campaign against illegal drugs was underway.
Malacañang has insisted that the Philippine government will not cooperate with any ICC investigation.