DOJ yet to meet with PNP on 'drug war' review findings, access to report still for discussion

A Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency agent secures part of a street holding residents temporarily during a drug raid in Maharlika Village, Taguig, south of Manila on Feb. 24, 2018. The drug raid was conducted to arrest five drug dealers, but only two were captured.
AFP / Noel Celis

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice is still discussing whether it will make public the results of its review on 52 cases on “drug war” operations that resulted in deaths.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Wednesday the DOJ is “still discussing internally” on the matter.

He also said the DOJ has yet to meet with the Philippine National Police on the department’s findings after it reviewed 52 administrative cases where the Internal Affairs Services found liability on the cops involved in the deadly “drug war” operations.

“We have not met with the PNP. But we’ll schedule it soon,” Guevarra told reporters.

The DOJ chief said last week that it finished its review on the 52 cases, but it would have to consult with the PNP on whether the families of the victims in the operations will be given copies of the report.

Guevarra initially said they will consult with the Philippine National Police on making the review public, but its chief, Police General Guillermo Eleazar passed the buck to DOJ and said the discretion with the department.

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Asked if Eleazar expressed willingness to make the findings public, Guevarra replied: "I think he said it’s up to the DOJ."

Access to panel findings

The examination of the 52 cases is part of the Philippine government’s review of the more than 5,000 “drug war” cases that resulted in deaths, which Guevarra himself had told the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2020.

After delays in the submission of its report, which the DOJ chief said is also due to pandemic restrictions, the panel in December 2020 said it found that police failed to follow standard protocols in more than half of the operations.

The PNP has since then given access to the DOJ to 52 cases under its Internal Affairs Services, which some hailed as a breakthrough but also came in late in the administration.

Access to panel review has proven to be difficult even for the Commission on Human Rights that Guevarra initially said would be involved as an independent monitoring body.

In January 2021, human rights commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit said: “If it’s done under the shadows, if it’s not transparent, then there is doubt as to the credibility of that report.”

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