DOJ: Initial drug war report may be out next week

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 11) —  A panel tasked to look into all anti-drug police operations that resulted in deaths in the country may release its preliminary report next week, the Department of Justice said on Friday.

The report would contain “initial findings in a couple of provinces with the highest incidence of police operations resulting in deaths, particularly in Bulacan and Pampanga,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said in a statement sent to reporters.

The body was initially set to release last month an evaluation report on over 5,000 anti-drug operations which resulted in killings. But Guevarra is now saying they do not have timeline for a full report as their “movements are severely hampered by this pandemic.”

The panel was created in July following UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s report that found “serious human rights violations” in the conduct of the Philippines’ campaign against illegal drugs. 

“The campaign against illegal drugs is being carried out without due regard for the rule of law, due process, and the human rights of people who may be using or selling drugs,” Bachelet noted in her report to the Human Rights Council in June.

In September, she called for an end to policies and rhetoric that were said to have led to the deaths of drug suspects. 

Data from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency showed that from July 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2020, at least 5,903 people have died during anti-drug operations. Local and international human rights groups have said thousands more may have lost lives in alleged extrajudicial killings since President Rodrigo Duterte launched his war on drugs.

The government is not downplaying these drug-war-related killings, according to Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat Undersecretary Severo Catura. He said the deaths could be considered as the “dire consequences” faced by the Philippines because of the country’s “serious problem” on illegal drugs.

“In human rights, one killing is more than enough," Catura said in a briefing. "One killing is too much. But what we are saying is, law enforcement operations against drug dealers [are] no simple matter." The Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat is the primary advisory body to the President in addressing human rights concerns in the country.

Earlier this month, Duterte said he is ready to face any possible cases over his bloody war on drugs. He also maintained he does not care what human rights groups say on the killings and on alleged human rights violations in his anti-drug campaign.

CNN Philippines' Anjo Alimario and Eimor Santos contributed to this report