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Philippine drug war probe set to cover cleared cops

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There have been lapses in police antidrug operations in the Philippines that led to the killing of suspects, Secretary of Justice Menardo Guevarra admitted to the UN Human Rights Council last year. HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

Philippine drug war probe set to cover cleared cops

Among the case records of deaths in antidrug operations to be turned over by the Philippine National Police (PNP) to the Department of Justice (DoJ) are those in which policemen were cleared due to the non-cooperation of the victims’ kin.

PNP chief General Guillermo Eleazar on May 26 said the records of the cases that had been previously investigated by the PNP Internal Affairs Service (IAS) were “volunteered for further review by the DoJ”.

Quoting the inspector general of the IAS, Eleazar said that out of all the cases investigated, “probable cause [for] the filing of administrative [charges]” was found in some cases.

He said that in discussions between the PNP and the DoJ, it was agreed that the files of even the other investigated cases would be submitted, “even if [these] resulted in the exoneration of the police operatives considering that no other evidence was presented by the relatives of the victims”.

Eleazar told the ABS-CBN News Channel: “I think it’s a good step to have this good collaboration between the DoJ and the PNP, to also dispel speculation that we’re hiding information.”

On the instruction of Secretary of Justice Menardo Guevarra, the DoJ is now preparing the memorandum of agreement that will govern the review.

Undersecretary of Justice Adrian Sugay told reporters on May 26: “We hope to finalise the document in the next few days.”

Eleazar said that with President Duterte authorising the DoJ to review the cases of deaths in antidrug operations, “we will be giving the necessary support and cooperation in order for them . . . to have access [to] this information, not just the 61 cases”.

The PNP-IAS conducts “motu proprio” investigations in police operations, including those in the war on drugs, where deaths occurred, according to Eleazar.

“We heard so many allegations, but most of the families of the victims or the suspects [in] those particular cases refused to cooperate and give information to the police,” he said, adding that as a result, some of the cases were handled only administratively.

Eleazar again said the PNP’s submission of documents would not be limited to the 61 case files, “as long as the DoJ [requests] the availability of [other] information”.

Asked to comment on Eleazar’s assurance, Guevarra said: “If the PNP chief said that the review panel may also review these other cases, we will be very happy to do so, as this is what we had wanted in the first place.”

But the matter of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) also gaining access to the PNP case files is “for further discussion”, Guevarra said in response to a question.

“The DoJ has its own separate agreement with the CHR,” he said, adding that the commission’s involvement would be in other areas, such as locating and assisting witnesses.

“This was one of the things that I discussed with the CHR today, as I intend to honour the DoJ’s commitment to engage the CHR in this endeavour,” he said.

In admitting to the UN Human Rights Council last year that there had been lapses in police antidrug operations that led to the killing of suspects, Guevarra said he would discuss with the CHR ways of collaboration in a review of the cases.

Edre Olalia of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers again called for the review of all files related to the war on drugs.

“That only 61 cases are currently seen with ‘clear liability’ out of the thousands of cases that are supposedly within the purview of the drug war panel review is simply incredible and scanty when seen in the context of the records, experience and reality over time,” Olalia said in a statement.

“We submit that perhaps the best thing to do is to completely and totally open any and all files, documents, records, and uncontaminated evidence to an impartial scrutiny by an independent body, with no other purpose but to arrive at the truth in all its glory, to render justice to the victims, and to stop the barbaric impunity that has not solved the drug menace to this day,” Olalia said.



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