DOJ says ready to share 'drug war' data with CHR

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
DOJ says ready to share 'drug war' data with CHR
“I’m protecting my country. It is my duty as President to protect and serve the people of the Republic of the Philippines. So in obedience to that mandate, that is how I interpret it, do not. If you want, do not,” he said.
Noel Celis / AFP, File

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice is prepared to share all its data on the Duterte administration's "war on drugs" with the Commission on Human Rights, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said Wednesday.

This comes after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said that the country has "no intention" of rejoining the International Criminal Court, which is holding a preliminary investigation into possible crimes against humanity in the conduct of the anti-narcotics campaign.

Marcos has yet to name new commissioners to the rights body.

At a press briefing with reporters Wednesday afternoon, Remulla said he would allow the CHR better access to 'drug war' data. "Yes," he said, but did not elaborate.

He added that the department would still provide the ICC with information "out of courtesy and comity," but did not say that the Philippines recognizes the court's jurisdiction.

Philstar.com sought the Commission on Human Rights for a reaction. This story will be updated with its response. 

CHR executive director Jacqueline de Guia said in a previous interview that "the government should see that the CHR's effort is collaborative and not detrimental itself to the government."

'No witnesses' in killings

"It's the duty of every law enforcement agent to turn over to us the case files, no ifs and buts there," Remulla said, adding that this would be "to show that our justice system is functioning."

But Remulla went on to claim that "the real problem here is really there are cases where people have been killed but there are no witnesses."

"There's nothing to start with. How can you start with a case, can you file a case when you have to person to accuse and no suspect to accost? These are unsolved cases, that's why we need witnesses," he said. "We would welcome these people who wish to put forward their testimonies."

Justice Undersecretary Jesse Hermogenes Andres said that six of the 52 cases reviewed by the DOJ in the last administration were dropped after families "expressed desire not to pursue the investigation" after "findings that there was no foul play in the buy-bust operation."

"There's nothing else that the prosecutor can do if there is a dearth of cases," he asserted. 

Remulla skirted a question on whether the DOJ would look into whether former President Rodrigo Duterte or his officials ordered any of the killings.

"That's a question without an answer...Kahit sino pa, wala naman tayong sinasanto eh (I doesn't matter who it is, nobody is off limits)," he said. "You're already presuming someting that is not there as a fact."

'Government OK needed for ICC probe'

Remulla then challenged the jurisdiction of the ICC's possible investigation, saying such a probe would require "compulsory processes" that constitute approval from the host government. 

"If they want to conduct an activity [they must have the sanction of the] Philippine government. But since we are no longer members of the ICC, then what activities can be sanctioned when we're no longer part of the organization?"

Philippine government data acknowledges  over 6,200 "drug personalities" who died in official anti-drug operations by law enforcement personnel. Many are said to have been "nanlaban", or had offered violent resistance. Estimates by rights group go as high as 29,000 because of killings that the government has attributed to vigilantes and to drug syndicates warring with each other. 

Global investigative panel Investigate PH found in its report earlier that police routinely intimidate families of victims and potential witnesses to bar them from filing cases and coming forward. Meanwhile, police leadership points to the lack of formal complaints as evidence that operations are done by the book.

Remulla also said that the DOJ is already in the process of auditing some 26,000 petitions for review that his department inherited from former Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, who now sits as solicitor general.

"Our personally-set target is to finish everything by the end of this year," he said. 

Amnesty International: Conviction in one case, thousands others pending

In a phone interview with Philstar.com earlier Wednesday, Aurora Parong, chair of Amnesty International Philippines expressed frustration that only the case of Kian delos Santos yielded a conviction out of the thousands of drug killings over the past six years.

"For the families, it's a big disappointment, and they are hurting. It's like this is a slap in the face of the families of victims, because they are hoping for justice at the ICC. It looks like the president is depriving the Filipino people now of a court of last resort for serious crimes when our country is failing us," she said. 

Parong, who is also co-chair of the Philippine Coalition for the ICC, said that the DOJ is "muddling the issue" in its narrative that the justice system is functioning in the face of foreign interference from the ICC. 

"It's a distortion of the role of the ICC. It's not against the country's judicial processes but the cooperation of a local process as well as the international court's process."

Parong also said that the ball is now in the DOJ's court. "They have to show that they have more information, any genuine investigations and criminal prosecutions in their efforts there now that there is no need for the ICC to intervene."  — with reports from Kristine Joy Patag 

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