DOJ-PNP deal on access to deadly 'drug war' cases still being drafted but review ongoing

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
DOJ-PNP deal on access to deadly 'drug war' cases still being drafted but review ongoing
File photo shows people lighting candles to protest drug war killings.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman, File

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice has started its review of police-led “drug war” operations that resulted in deaths, Undersecretary Adrian Sugay said Wednesday.

“We are currently evaluating the 53 cases. We will finish this first,” he told reporters in a message.

Sugay leads the team of DOJ lawyers reviewing the 53 administrative cases where the Philippine National Police’s Internal Affairs Service found liability on cops in “drug war” operations where killings occurred.

But the Memorandum of Agreement between the DOJ and the Philippine National Police on giving government lawyers access to case files is still being drafted, Sugay said.

“We are still working on it,” he explained. Sugay added that the review of the cases and crafting of the MOA should be simultaneous. “And that is exactly what we are doing,” he also said.

Police General Guillermo Eleazar earlier announced that they are willing to give DOJ access to all administrative cases, but later said only 53 will be handed over to the department. He said only resolved cases will be forwarded to them.

This was after President Rodrigo Duterte said that “drug war” documents are not public documents as these involve national security issues.

The Supreme Court, in an April 2018 resolution, however, had said that “drug war” documents do not involve national security. In its resolution issued in the pending petitions against Oplan Tokhang, the SC said it would be the “height of absurdity” if it would allow Solicitor General Jose Calida’s refusal to submit the documents relating to police’s anti-narcotics operations.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, noting the SC resolution, said they will “play it by ear.” He also noted that with the concerns Duterte raised, they will be more careful in examining the records.

“We will just make it a point to determine whether there is any national security concerned involved in each particular case. If we do not see anything and this is an ordinary criminal case that needs to be investigated and prosecute the offender, then we will do so with our mandate as DOJ and as PNP,” the DOJ chief said in last week’s presser.

The DOJ is leading a high-profile review of more than 5,000 “drug war” operations that resulted in deaths. Guevarra himself informed the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2020 of this.

The panel has since submitted an initial report to Duterte where they found that “in more than half of the records reviewed, the law enforcement agents involved failed to follow standard protocols.”

The "drug war" review panel figured significantly in the UNHRC’s resolution released in October that pushed for capacity building to improve the human rights situation in the Philippines but stopped short in launching an independent, on-the-ground investigation, which rights groups have been calling for.

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