DOJ review on drug war cases 'grossly insufficient' — lawyer group

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 21) — A lawyers' group lambasted the Department of Justice (DOJ) after it released a report involving only 52 cases of killings from the Duterte administration's bloody drug war.

Citing data from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) pointed out 6,191 deaths have been reported as of August 31, 2021.

"The review of just 52 cases barely scratches the surface and is grossly insufficient and inconsistent with the government's commitments under international law to provide effective review of cases involving alleged extralegal killings," it said Thursday.

FLAG noted the report was constrained by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte, who barred the release of "other cases invoking national security, a truth that is nowhere reflected in the statement of the Department of Justice or in the results of the review."

Atty. Chel Diokno, human rights lawyer and national chairperson of the group, lamented that what was supposed to be a "judicious review" failed to provide "useful information to assist in making the offenders accountable nor comfort or solace to the families of the victims."

Of the 52 cases, only seven resulted in the dismissal from service of erring police officers. 35 were suspended for 22 to 180 days, one was just reprimanded, while five other cases were dismissed.

"What the review does reveal is what human rights advocates have known all along and have consistently brought attention to the government — ​that there is lack of transparency in the investigation [....] and that whatever investigation is conducted is either watered down or trivialized," Diokno said.

He urged the DOJ to investigate all the remaining cases, including those barred by the President, then "take the next logical step — prosecute those it has already found accountable."

"This is not just to fulfill in good faith the country's commitments under international law, but also to provide the true picture of the extent of the killings under the so-called 'war on drugs,'" FLAG stressed. "The people deserve more than what the panel is providing."

READ: Lack of records, negative gunpowder tests: DOJ releases drug war report

Atty. Jacqueline De Guia, spokesperson of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), echoed Diokno's sentiment, reminding the government of its job "to protect life and ensure justice."

"While we see movement, [we] continue to urge the government to remain mindful of the remaining thousands of alleged [extrajudicial killing] cases waiting for resolution and justice," she said.

"The first step towards making perpetrators accountable for their offenses is through genuine and straightforward investigations," De Guia added.

The CHR said it was "open, willing, and ready" to help in the review through the conduct of its own probe, "provided that we are given access to pertinent case files as well."

Last month, the International Criminal Court authorized a full-blown investigation into Duterte's controversial anti-drug campaign, citing alleged crimes against humanity. It estimated that around 12,000 to 30,000 people were killed from July 1, 2016 to March 16, 2019 alone.

The President has repeatedly insisted he won't participate in the probe, but the Supreme Court ruled that even if the state has withdrawn from the Rome Statute which created the ICC, it is still obliged to cooperate with the investigation already initiated.

On Wednesday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, reacting to criticisms about the probe, said the findings of the DOJ "will belie all claims that the President is responsible under the principle of command responsibility, because on the contrary, it proves that the Philippine state has, in fact, investigated and prosecuted individuals for these extrajudicial killings."