Duterte to get report on 'drug war' review this week; public access unsure

File — Police officers investigate an alleged drug dealer killed by an unidentified gunman in Manila.

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte is set to receive this week the results of a Department of Justice-led review of 52 "drug war" cases that resulted in deaths but it is unclear if the Commission on Human Rights or the families of people killed in those cases will see the report.

As with the DOJ-led panel's initial report, the report will go to the Palace. Matters like access will be discussed later.

"We are submitting a report to the president this week regarding the findings of the DOJ on the 52 cases of drug deaths turned over to us by the [Philippine National Police]," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

The report will include the panel's recommendations on the 52 cases, he also said. 

Asked on whether access will be given to the CHR or families of the victims, Guevarra only replied: "We’ll deal with that later. We have to submit the report to [the president] first."

Guevarra however assured the public that a summary of the report will be released. "I did it before, I will do it again. At the proper time," he told reporters.

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In its initial report, the DOJ-led panel found that police failed to follow standard protocols in more than half of the operations.

A full copy of the initial report has yet to be made public. The Commission on Human Rights has also been pressing the government for access to the findings.

Guevarra, in his statement before the United Nations Human Rights Council, said that CHR would be involved as an independent monitoring body in the panel review.

Calls for ICC probe

Earlier this week, the International Criminal Court Registry released a redacted public report on submissions of "drug war" victims' representations to the tribunal.

The ICC Registry’s Victims Participation and Reparations Section concluded that "victims overwhelmingly support an investigation by the ICC prosecutor into all crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the context of the so called [‘war on drugs’] in the Philippines" from November 2011 to March 17, 2019.

The period covers the time that the Philippines was a member of the ICC.

According to quotes taken from victim representations in the report, they urged the ICC to investigate Duterte and his men because of lack of trust in domestic processes.

"I am grateful ICC gave us the opportunity to participate and hear our views," one victim said.

Another told the ICC: "Duterte must be prosecuted for the many people that he killed; an investigation is important to show the families of those who died that justice can be served… Investigate the police, the higher ups who ordered them to do it. This was the order of the President of the Philippines."

Police Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, in a separate statement, said the police respects the decision of families to seek the ICC for an investigation as he insisted that the Philippine justice system works.

"Proof of this is the conviction of the policemen for the killing of Kian delos Santos and several other court decisions which have caused the dismissal and imprisonment of other PNP personnel," the police chief said, referring to a conviction recorded in 2018.

Families however continue to report intimidation and coercion by local police urging them not to file formal complaints, according to a global investigative panel. 

Progress in other cases has meanwhile been slow to nonexistent. Even the CHR has said that investigations into thousands of other "drug war" cases are still pending, with only a handful of cases actually reaching the courts.  — with reports from Franco Luna

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