DOJ: Testimonies of victims' kin, witnesses needed for 'drug war' review
File — Police officers investigate an alleged drug dealer killed by an unidentified gunman in Manila.

DOJ: Testimonies of victims' kin, witnesses needed for 'drug war' review

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - June 22, 2021 - 4:08pm

MANILA, Philippines — Witnesses and victims' kin must testify to make sure that government's review of "war on drugs" cases will produce results, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

He made the comment after a UN rights council official said the investigation into cases where alleged drug personalities were killed must produce "meaningful results."

In a message to reporters on Monday, Guevarra said: "The DOJ review panel will go where the evidence available will lead it."

"But the cooperation of the victims’ families and their witnesses is crucial. Unless they come forward and testify, it would be extremely difficult for our investigating agencies to build up cases against erring law enforcers." 

 UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, in her message during the opening of the UN Human Rights Council’s 47th session, noted the Philippine government’s steps in its review of alleged police killings in the bloody “drug war.”

"It is important that re-investigation of cases produces meaningful results, as accountability for human rights violations remains a long-standing concern in the Philippines. I again emphasize the importance of protecting and ensuring the full participation of civil society and the independent national human rights institution," she said.

The DOJ-led panel in December released its initial report where it found that police failed to follow standard protocols in more than half of the operations. No full examination of the recovered weapon or ballistic examination was also conducted.

Families of people who were killed in the "drug war" said the DOJ-led review was neither comprehensive nor transparent as the initial report was given directly to Duterte and the Philippine National Police.

The public has had no access to the report months since it was submitted to the Palace.

81 cases under preliminary investigation, court trial

Guevarra said that there are at least 81 cases of “drug war” deaths that are undergoing preliminary investigation or are pending before courts. "That number may increase as the review panel proceeds with the task before it," he added.

The breakdown of these cases has yet to be made public as of press time.

The DOJ also has access to at least 53 administrative cases under the police's Internal Affairs Service where they found liability on police officers. The panel also received 107 case files on Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency operations from July 2016 to June 2020 where casualties were recorded.

Official police figures acknowledge at least 6,000 deaths in anti-drug operations since July 2016. But human rights organizations estimate the number of people killed could be several times higher.

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