Duterte’s ‘drug war’ review order before UN only reiteration of ongoing DOJ-led evaluation

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Duterteâs âdrug warâ review order before UN only reiteration of ongoing DOJ-led evaluation
This undated photo shows people lighting candles to protest killings under the Duterte administration's 'war on drugs.'
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 12:17 p.m.) — In the face of an investigation by the International Criminal Court, President Rodrigo Duterte told state leaders at the United Nations that he ordered a review of the “war on drugs,” which was apparently a push for the ongoing Department of Justice-led evaluation.

“I have instructed the Department of Justice and the Philippine National Police to review the conduct of our campaign against illegal drugs. Those found to have acted beyond bounds during operations shall be made accountable before our laws,” Duterte said in his speech for the UN General Assembly during its 76th session.

There is already an ongoing review of “drug war” operations that resulted in deaths, led by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra who told the UN Human Rights Council in June 2020 of his undertaking.

Two reports so far were submitted to Duterte. The first covered operations that resulted in deaths in Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog regions, and in major cities. The second reviewed 52 administrative cases against cops in deadly “drug war” operations.

Guevarra said in its initial report that the DOJ found that police failed to follow protocols in many anti-drug operations, but findings of the second report remain confidential, as Guevarra insisted on clearances from the president and the PNP leadership too.

Prior to Duterte’s UN appearance, Guevarra told reporters who have been pressing him for more details on the second “drug war” review report to keep an eye out on the speech of the president.

Reporters have asked Guevarra whether Duterte’s directive to his department and the PNP in his UN speech is a new order, but he has yet to reply.

UN Joint Program with the Philippines

Duterte, also noted that the Philippines has “recently finalized with the United Nations our Joint Program on Human Rights,” which was signed in July.

“This is a model for constructive engagement between a sovereign Member State and the United Nations,” he added.

But Human Rights Watch Asia Division Senior Researcher Carlos Conde noted that while the Philippine government hailed its three-year joint program for capacity building, it is “a spin that flies in the face of the bloody rights catastrophe that is the government’s war on drugs.”

Conde noted that even if the program becomes successful, “the UN’s support will not address the core problem: the program has no prospect of convincing Duterte to reverse course and hold abusive officials to account.”

“After all, the killings continue and accountability is practically zero,” he added.

ICC probe

In the same speech, Duterte said: “Meaningful change, to be enduring, must come from within. The imposition of one’s will over another — no matter how noble the intent — has never worked in the past. And it will never in the future.”

Duterte’s appearance before the UN came days after the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC, where he is being accused of committing crimes against humanity over his “drug war,” announced that it has approved the conduct of a full investigation into the Philippine president.

But the Duterte government has been insisting that the international tribunal does not have jurisdiction over the country.

The Philippines’ withdrawal of its ratification of the Rome Statute took effect in March 2019.

International probers are now expected to be gathering evidence against Duterte and other officials accused of committing crimes against humanity to confirm charges against them.

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