PNP should have filed charges for every drug war death, CHR says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 7) — If the International Criminal Court (ICC) would proceed with investigating the country's bloody war on drugs, one reason would be the Philippine National Police's (PNP) failure to file thousands of cases, a human rights official said Saturday.

Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Executive Director and spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said the PNP should have made it standard procedure to file charges for every anti-drug operation that would result in deaths.

"Ang nangyari po, nahinto sa police. It was a unilateral assertion na nanlaban. Kaya po we were not able to demonstrate in some ways that our courts are working, our justice system is working," de Guia said.

[Translation: What happened was it stopped with the police. It was a unilateral assertion that the suspects fought back. This is why we were not able to demonstrate in some ways that our courts are working, our justice system is working.]

Government data shows around 6,000 deaths in anti-illegal drugs operations, a figure that local and international human rights groups believe is just the tip of the iceberg. Police claimed the suspects resisted arrest. De Guia, however, noted it was for the court, not the cops, to say the killings were in self-defense.

"Kasi automatic po dapat sana na kapag may namatay, dahil may namatay, may charge po muna. And ngayon kung i-a-assert po yung justifying circumstance of self-defense... dapat po korte na po sana ang maglinaw," de Guia said.

[Translation: It should be automatic for the police to file charges for every death. If the justifying circumstance of self-defense is asserted, it is for the court to clarify.]

The CHR is currently investigating 2,300 drug war cases involving 3,200 victims. This is just a portion of the total number of alleged extrajudicial killings, de Guia admitted, noting that only 10 percent were actually filed by complainants. The bigger 90 percent chunk were out of CHR's own initiative.

De Guia attributed the small number of complaints to the "climate of fear," noting that the number of complainants spiked only during the brief time that the police's flagship Oplan Tokhang was suspended twice in 2017.

READ: Police resume anti-illegal drug operations under new guidelines

'We need more Kian cases'

The ICC targets to complete by next year a preliminary examination to determine if it would investigate the drug war.

President Rodrigo Duterte and his officials have argued the government does not need the international community to intervene because it can investigate and prosecute erring police officers, noting the murder conviction of three cops in the slay of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos in a police operation in 2017. De Guia said this is not enough assurance justice will also be served in the cases of thousands of other victims.

"We need more Kian cases just to show that the ICC does not have to come in. If we have more Kian cases – those cases or incidents where they reach the prosecution, charges are filed against the police and eventually the court decides whether or not it's truly a nanlaban case – then the ICC won't proceed because then we are able to demonstrate that the principle of complementarity is met here in our jurisdiction," De Guia explained.

She said the CHR is willing to cooperate with the ICC in the event that it is tapped for information on the war on drugs. There is no such request from the international tribunal as of now, de Guia said.

"Kung sakali naman po na hingian kami e (If ever we are asked) we are not required to submit our report to the Philippine government. One of the vital features of the CHR is its independence para po maging epektibo siya (for it to be effective)," she added.

More than 6,000 drug war deaths

De Guia reiterated that the number of drug war deaths could be as high as 27,000, including those classified by the PNP as "deaths under investigation."

"Until those deaths are not yet concluded in terms of investigation, then the government cannot conclusively say that there are only 6,000 deaths," she said.

She called on the government to be more transparent and provide the public with accurate drug war data.

De Guia said the anti-drug campaign has also left widows and orphans that should be accounted for and given aid by the government. They will complete the number of drug war victims, De Guia said.