The government has created a “Special Investigating Team” tasked to probe new and unsolved cases involving grave violations of human rights in the country.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, who chairs the so-called AO 35 Inter-Agency Committee, said the SIT will investigate cases involving human rights violations, including the unsolved killing of Bayan Muna lawyer Gil Gojol and his driver Danilo France.
Gojol and France were killed in Sorsogon City in December 2006 after attending a court hearing.
A human rights lawyer and counsel of communities affected by mining in Rapu-rapu, Albay, Gojol was a former Sorsogon provincial board member.
The creation of the special investigating team was recommended by the Inter-Agency Committee on extralegal killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other grave violations of the right to life, liberty and security of persons, which was created under Administrative Order No. 35.
“SITs are created for new and unsolved [cold] cases. The case of Gojol is among the cold cases included in the AO 35 inventory,” the DOJ said.
Unlike the current set-up where prosecutors assume a passive role in case build-up, the AO 35 mechanism places investigating teams under the direction and supervision of prosecutors to expedite investigation and improve conviction rates in human rights cases.
Aside from the Gojol case, the Inter-Agency Committee is expected to conduct a reinvestigation of a number of cases following the inventory conducted by the interagency committee.
Earlier this month, the United Nations Human Rights Commission voted to authorize the high commissioner to prepare a comprehensive report on the alleged human rights violations in the Philippines’ war on illegal drugs.
President Rodrigo Duterte, however, said the UN body must be stupid for thinking he would cooperate with their investigation.
“As I have told you before ladies and gentlemen of the world, including all the governments there, I will only be tried or face a trial in a Philippine court presided by a Filipino judge, prosecuted by a Filipino,” Duterte said.
He insisted there was no need for foreign intervention to probe whether he is liable for the deaths or not.
“Every time they see a cadaver or a dead person there, they will just assume that it is a victim of extrajudicial killing,” he said.
Government figures showed there have been 6,000 drug-related deaths since Duterte took office, while human rights groups pegged the number at 20,000, including those who were killed vigilante-style.
Duterte has been widely criticized for his anti-narcotics crackdown because thousands of people have died in police operations including children, the latest of whom was Myca Ulpina, a 3-year-old killed in a buy-bust operation on June 29 in Manila.