Inter-agency panel on drug war should be given a chance, Guevarra says
This file photo shows Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.
The STAR/Rudy Santos, File

Inter-agency panel on drug war should be given a chance, Guevarra says

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - July 2, 2020 - 3:47pm

MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra appealed that the inter-agency panel reviewing police operations that resulted in deaths be given a chance to work, amid criticisms that its creation was just a ruse to avoid international scrutiny.

“It will be for everyone’s good to allow this inter-agency panel to do what it has set out to do, and reserve judgment at proper time,” Guevarra told reporters in a message.

He stressed that the panel “needs all the help it can get, including from those who seek to discredit it much too early.”

At the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 44th session on Tuesday, Guevarra delivered the Philippine government’s statement and said an inter-agency panel, headed by his office, was created to investigate anti-drug operations that resulted in deaths. The panel to release a report on November.

But criticisms that this government review team is just a “ruse to shield the country from international scrutiny” and part of the administration’s “damage control to save its international reputation.”

The Human Rights Watch also said on Wednesday: “It’s also a naked attempt to discourage the Human Rights Council from starting an independent, international investigation into the ‘drug war’ killings and related violations as recommended by the UN high commissioner.”

Task forces, commissions ‘severely inadequate’

Rights group Karapatan, meanwhile, said that domestic mechanisms to probe police operations have proven to be “severely inadequate.”

In a statement on Thursday, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said: “It is more than conspicuous, however, that domestic mechanisms are severely inadequate—if not outright failing—especially with the worsening climate of impunity under Duterte.”

“We have been on this road before, of creation of task forces and commissions which do not deliver justice and accountability but are only put up to make it appear that they are doing something about the killings,” she added.

Palabay recalled that the government, in the past, also created task forces and commissions such as the Melo Commission and Task Force Usig under the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and a task force under former President Benigno Aquino III to probe “extra-legal killings.”

The Melo Commission was an independent fact-finding body headed by Supreme Court Justice Jose Melo to look into political killings while Task Force Usig was formed to look into killings of media practitioners and members of militant groups.

“These bodies also barely scratched the surface on State policies driving these extrajudicial killings and thus, as a result, contributed to the whitewashing of these crimes and in worsening the human rights situation in the country,” Palabay also said.

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