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DOJ: 'Drug war' case review includes missing, falsified death certificates

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
DOJ: 'Drug war' case review includes missing, falsified death certificates
The mother views the coffin of her three-year-old baby Kateleen Myca Ulpina, killed during a sting operation conducted by the police, is seen during her wake in Rodriguez, Rizal, east of Manila on July 5, 2019.
AFP / Noel Celis

MANILA, Philippines — Irregularities in death certificates also came up in the government's review of "war on drugs" cases, the justice secretary said Wednesday after forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun presented findings that causes of death in some cases she studied had been falsified.

"The alleged falsification of death certificates as a possible cover-up is part of the DOJ drug war review," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters when asked about Dr. Fortun's findings.

He said they initially learned that copies of the death certificates were missing in some records or files they reviewed. While he does not have exact figures of how many cases had that problem, he said "[t]he certificates may have been issued alright, but some of them were not found in the police or [National Prosecution Service] files."

Guevarra said the National Bureau of Investigation will look into this issue, and this will be part of their periodic progress reports.

"We’ll give special attention to the death certificates, though," he added.

This comes after Fortun, as quoted in a Reuters report, presented her findings after looking into 46 case files of persons killed in the Duterte administration's "war on drugs."

Of the 46 that Fortun reviewed, one had a missing death certificate while the certificates in some cases were incomplete. Seven showed that the person died of natural causes like pneumonia, sepsis and hypertension while 32 among the 46 whose remains were exhumed died of gunshot wounds,

At least 24 had been shot in the head.

FROM INTERAKSYON: Forensic pathologist says some drug war death certificates falsified

‘War on drugs’ review

Time is running out for the Guevarra-led “war on drugs” review panel. With less than two months left in his stint as President Rodrigo Duterte's justice secretary, the panel that started its work in 2020 has so far released only two reports.

The first covered 300 cases in few provinces such as Bulacan and Pampanga, but this was not publicized and was submitted directly to Duterte.

A matrix was released on the second report that covered 52 cases from the police’s Internal Affairs Services, where the panel found direct liability of cops involved in the deadly anti-narcotics operations.

Of the 52, four have reached court while five more will be at the prosecution level.

Rights groups however criticized the DOJ-led review saying it came "too late," and that investigation must go beyond police officers who have killed and look into how they were emboldened to do so.

In October 2021, the DOJ said it is coordinating with the Philippine National Police to get thousand more case files, but Guevara admitted then that the review will "[depend] on the manpower resources that we can muster and the extent of cooperation that the PNP will extend to us."

But Justice Undersecretary Adrian Sugay admitted: "If, at the end of the day, there is a bigger investigation into this whole thing, after we’ve done our part and investigating as much as we can ... well, you know, we’ll gladly help when the time comes, we’ll cross the bridge when we get there."

The Philippine government has asked the International Criminal Court to defer its investigation into allegations of crimes against humanity against Duterte and his officials over the bloody "war on drugs." But ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan said the suspension is temporary and his office will continue its analysis of information it already has.

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

DRUG WAR

MENARDO GUEVARRA

WAR ON DRUGS

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