CALOOCAN CITY, Sept. 19 (PIA) -- The Department of Justice ( DOJ) is working double-time in its review of cases of deaths that have occurred in legitimate anti-illegal drugs operations, and will release a report, despite challenges and delays amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
DOJ Undersecretary Markk Perete told media outfit ANC this week that the DOJ is currently evaluating some 900 cases being actively handled by the DOJ prosecutors in the National Capital Region and Region 3.
About 30 cases against law enforcement personnel are pending in court, with each case having anywhere from one to a dozen law enforcement officers charged. Several others are pending preliminary investigation.
Undersecretary Perete underlined that the constitution of the Review Panel reconciles the government's mandates of pursuing legitimate law enforcement operations in pursuit of the drug campaign and of actively advocating the human rights principles of good governance.
Secretary of Justice Meynardo Guevara informed the Human Rights Council on 30 June that the DOJ has been leading an inter-agency mechanism that is conducting a judicious review of over 5,000 cases of deaths resulting from legitimate operations of the Philippine National Police.
Guevara emphasized that this is an exercise of due diligence in the accountability mechanism of the government, while emphasizing that the PNP has been following established protocols to investigate and take action on said cases.
The PNP is obliged by its internal mechanisms to conduct motu propio investigations - whether or not there are complainants - on all law enforcement operations that result in deaths, and take action on this basis.
Guevara emphasized that the Panel supports the web of existing mechanisms to prevent cases of impunity in the country, such as the AO 35 inter-agency body that monitor and pursue cases of extra-legal killings, enforced disappearances and torture.
National and international NGOs have raised concerns on alleged impunity in the Philippines but have not been able to substantiate claims of extrajudicial killings citing figures of as high as 30,000.
Early this week, PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar rejected new allegations by the Human Rights Watch of state-sanctioned extra judicial killings during the pandemic. He questioned the basis of these fresh allegations from the HRW, saying that they are baseless and they severely distort realities in the country.
The Philippine government has repeatedly addressed these allegations in the Human Rights Council in Geneva, calling advocates to provide the factual basis for their claims and to cooperate with the government to facilitate investigations and prosecutions.
Ambassador Evan Garcia, Permanent Representative of the Philippines in Geneva, cited the signing early this month of the Data Sharing Agreement between the DOJ and the Commission of Human Rights ( CHR) as a pathway to strengthening operational coordination between the government and the CHR to facilitate the prosecution of cases of human rights violations. He has also briefed the Human Rights Council about the establishment of a human rights observatory that would strengthen the platform for the government, the CHR and NGOs, to share data, and refer cases duly vetted, to the proper government authorities to render justice to the victims.
Garcia has reiterated that the Philippine government takes each reported case seriously and exhausts all available mechanisms in the bureaucracy to investigate and prosecute cases, when facts are provided.
He expressed concerns that the sweeping allegations and claims presented by certain human rights organizations are not substantiated, and for this reason they are not a good starting point for any serious engagement and constructive way forward. (PIA NCR)