DOJ 'war on drugs' killings review to focus on urban areas next

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
DOJ 'war on drugs' killings review to focus on urban areas next
This file photo taken in 2018 shows police officers visiting homes in Tondo, Manila to ask suspected drug users to undergo rehabilitation as part of the PNP's Oplan Tokhang.
The STAR / Edd Gumban, File

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice will focus on Philippine National Police deadly “war on drugs” operations in certain urban areas in its continuing review of the Duterte administration’s bloody anti-narcotics campaign, an official of the agency said.

DOJ Undersecretary Adrian Sugay acknowledged that they have around 6,000 more PNP “war on drugs” operations that resulted in deaths left for review, but they only have a few months left in the term.

“So we discussed with Secretary [Menardo Guevarra] here at the DOJ that maybe we should concentrate in certain urban areas,” Sugay said in Filipino at Thursday’s Laging Handa briefing.

The DOJ on Wednesday made public its matrix on its review of 52 cases where the PNP’s Internal Affairs Service found direct liability on police officers involved in “war on drugs” operations that resulted in deaths. Of these, one case was tagged as non-related to the anti-narcotics campaign, while suspects in a separate case were not killed.

As of August 31, #RealNumbersPH records show that there have been 6,191 persons who died in anti-narcotics operations. The government has maintained that those who were killed had resisted arrest but the DOJ-led review has raised questions on the "nanlaban" narrative used by the police.

 “If you can notice on the information table, you can see that Visayas and maybe some areas in Bicol region, and maybe some areas in Mindanao, [National Capital Region] are not included,” Sugay pointed out.

“So what we will do is the directive of our secretary, maybe we should go after cases in urban areas and let’s concentrate reviewing on those case folders,” he added.

Sugay added that PNP General Guillermo Eleazar said they are ready to make available the said case files.

DOJ panel review

The published matrix includes docket numbers, names of killed suspect/s, places and dates of incidents — with some dating as far back as 2016 — and the DOJ review panel’s summary observations.

The matrix also showed that most police officers involved were only suspended for lapses, with cops in one case only getting a reprimand. It also revealed that in at least seven cases, suspects who supposedly shot at cops tested negative in gunpowder paraffin tests. In some cases, records were also incomplete.

READ: DOJ review finds lapses in 'drug war' ops commonly punished with suspension

The review of these cases is contained in the DOJ panel’s second report, with the first concentrating on a few provinces with the highest incidence of police operations resulting in deaths, particularly in Bulacan and Pampanga. In this review, the DOJ found that police failed to follow protocols in many anti-drug operations.

Guevarra himself told the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2020 of the Philippine government’s review of 5,655 “war on drugs” operations that resulted in deaths.

But lawyers from the Free Legal Assistance Group said that the DOJ matrix “barely scratches the surface and is grossly insufficient and inconsistent with the government’s commitment under international law to provide effective review of cases involving alleged extralegal killings.”

The International Criminal Court has also launched an investigation into Duterte and his men over allegations of crimes against humanity over the bloody “war on drugs” in the country.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: October 20, 2021 - 10:22am

Reuters wins Pulitzers, the most prestigious awards in American journalism, in international reporting for its story on the methods of police killing squads in President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and for feature photography documenting the Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

In covering the deadly drug war in the Philippines, Reuters reporters Clare Baldwin, Andrew R.C. Marshall and Manuel Mogato "demonstrated how police in the president’s 'drug war' have killed with impunity and consistently been shielded from prosecution," Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler says.

October 20, 2021 - 10:22am

Th Department of Justice releases information on the 52 drug war cases it reviews based on police records.

Since 2016, no criminal complaint has been filed.

The DOJ notes that the cases are to undergo further investigation for possible filing of criminal charges against erring police officers.

February 28, 2021 - 1:29pm

The bloody shootout between the police and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Quezon City last Wednesday should speed up implementation of better monitoring of law enforcement operations, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto says.

Recto says law enforcers should have bodycams as well as dashboard cams in their vehicles.

“It is again a bloody reminder of a missing but vital equipment in policing—video recording devices, especially during operations,” Recto says.

Recto says in a release that he sponsored with then Sen. JV Ejercito a P5.4-billion allocation in the 2017 national budget for new police equipment, including body cameras, "but it took four years and five PNP chiefs to buy some 2,600 pieces."

February 25, 2021 - 4:42pm

Heads of Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and Philippine National Police vow thorough probe into the shootout along Commonweatlh Avenue on Wednesday night.

They say they will defer to the findings of the joint Board of Inquiry formed to investigate the incident, where three law enforcement personnel were killed.

PDEA Director General Wilkins Villanueva says he cannot yet give operational details, saying those are still subject to investigation.

Police Gen. Debold Sinas says findings will be made public as soon as these are available.

February 25, 2021 - 1:04pm

Sen. Risa Hontiveros says she will call for a Senate investigation into the shootoout between Quezon City police officers and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency personnel in an anti-drug operation.

"We need to look into this further. It is very alarming that this is not the first time that such a ‘misencounter’ has happened. The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) did admit that this has happened numerous times. These ‘misencounters’ should be rare, not common," Hontiveros says.

According to initial reports, the police conducted a buy-bust operation but did not know they were transacting with PDEA personnel.

"How could this have happened, at all, in the first place? Why did the shootout take place for as long as an hour? Hindi ba pwedeng magkalinawan, even within the first few minutes, that a misencounter breaks out?" Hontiveros adds.

February 24, 2021 - 9:12pm

Ever Commonwealth mall management confirms that there was a shootout outside the mall on Wednesday.

"We have secured all access to the mall so all shoppers are safe inside," it says.

"Our priority right now is to ensure the safety of the employees and public."

It adds management is coordinating with the Philippine National Police on the situation.

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