MANILA— Malacañang on Thursday said findings of the justice department's first review of alleged police lapses in President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs cannot be released in full.
The justice department earlier in the day said it needed Duterte's go signal to release the first review that covered 300 drug war deaths.
The President recently allowed the release of a matrix from the second review into 52 killings under the anti-narcotics drive, noted Justice Undersecretary Adrian Sugay.
"Kung magkaroon din kami ng direktiba doon sa unang report, ire-release din namin iyon," he said in a televised public briefing.
(If we also get a directive on the first report, we will release it, too.)
The first report, however, has prompted an ongoing probe by the National Bureau of Investigation, said Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque.
"Ang dahilan po kaya hindi mairi-release verbatim kung ano 'yang investigation report na 'yan is these are now live cases subject to police investigation by the NBI and constitute exception to freedom of information," he said in a separate press briefing.
"Live criminal investigations na po ito."
(The reason why the reports can't be released verbatim is that these are now live cases subject to police investigation by the NBI and constitute exception to freedom of information. This is a live criminal investigation.)
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier said that in more than half of records in the first review, officers "failed to follow standard protocols pertaining to coordination with other agencies and the processing of the crime scene."
He told the United Nations Human Rights Council in February that police failed to examine the weapon of slain drug suspects who allegedly resisted arrest.
"No full examination of the weapon recovered was conducted. No verification of its ownership was undertaken. No request for ballistic examination or paraffin test was pursued until its completion," he said.
Video courtesy of PTV
WHAT SECOND REVIEW FOUND
The Philippines has come under pressure from the UN to hold a thorough probe and the International Criminal Court recently announced it would investigate the crackdown.
The government, however, has said it will not cooperate because the Philippine justice system is functioning.
Wednesday's release of details of 52 drug war deaths is a rare admission by the state that abuses may have taken place.
In several of those, victims had no traces of gunpowder on their hands, or did not have a gun at all.
The DOJ also said police had used excessive force, shot suspects at close range, and relevant medical and police records were missing.
The findings, which are subject to further case buildup and criminal charges, could challenge the government's narrative of the war on drugs.
Duterte has for 5 years defended police and argued that all those killed were drug dealers who fought back. He has publicly said police could kill if they believed they were in danger and he would pardon any who end up in prison.
Police chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar vowed no cover up.
"We will make sure to hold accountable those who should be held accountable," he said in a statement.
Carlos Conde, Senior Philippines Researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the war on drugs was about more than a few rogue police.
He criticized what he called light punishment being recommended by police internal affairs, which included suspension, demotion or dismissal.
"Based on these 52 cases alone, it is clear that the drug war is an illegal, murderous state policy being carried out by the police force that has been commanded by the president himself to disregard due process," Conde said.
One of the cases reviewed by the DOJ involved a suspect who was shot 15 times by police.
The DOJ said there was no crime scene report or autopsy, nor were ballistics or paraffin tests carried out to determine if the suspect was armed.
It said it was disclosing the findings so that families of victims could know deaths were being investigated, and to invite witnesses to come forward.
More than 6,000 people have been killed by police in the crackdown, but activists say many thousands more drug users and peddlers were shot dead by mysterious gunmen. Police have denied involvement in those.
— With a report from Reuters