The Department of Justice-led inter-agency review team on Friday vowed to pursue its investigation of deaths arising from the government’s anti-drug operations nationwide.
“What we have thus far is an initial report. And we intend to continue the review of cases involving anti-drug operations where deaths occurred. We intend to come out with further findings and recommendations,” DOJ Undersecretary Adrian Ferdinand Sugay said in a text message to reporters.
Sugay revealed that the panel has completed its review of 328 cases where death occurred during an anti-illegal drug operation.
“Any and all possible administrative/criminal liability against those involved in these anti-illegal drug operations where deaths occurred may be pursued depending on any further findings/recommendations,” Sugay stressed.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier said the review panel has submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte and to the Philippine National Police its report on its initial findings and recommendations.
“I understand that they (PNP) are currently evaluating our findings and recommendations and will come out with their report in the first week of March,” Sugay noted.
In his speech before the 7th meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Guevarra disclosed that the panel has found irregularities, saying that many law enforcement agents involved in the government’s anti-drug operations failed to follow standard protocols, including proper coordination with other agencies and processing of the crime scene.
Guevarra said initial and preliminary findings by the review panel of some 5,655 “nanlaban” cases confirm that in many of these cases, law enforcement agents asserted that the subject of the anti-drug operations resisted arrest or attempted to draw a weapon and fight back.
“Yet, no full examination of the weapon recovered was conducted. No verification of its ownership was undertaken. No request for ballistic examination or paraffin test was pursued until its completion,” the DOJ chief lamented.
“It was also noted that among others, in more than half of the records reviewed, the law enforcement agents involved failed to follow standard protocols pertaining to coordination with other agencies and the processing of the crime scene,” he said.
Nonetheless, Guevarra assured the member-states of the UNHRC that appropriate government agencies had already been addressing the findings of the review panel and that several policemen have been recommended for criminal prosecution and administrative procedures.
“It is now the immediate task of the review panel to ensure that these recommendations have been acted upon and carried out by the proper disciplinarian authorities and that measures are adopted to minimize loss of lives during legitimate law enforcement operations against illegal drugs,” Guevarra stressed.
He assured the UN human rights body that the Philippine justice system is working, even as he rejected efforts by international bodies to assume jurisdiction over these so-called “nanlaban” cases.
In June 30 last year, Guevarra told the UNHRC that the government formed the DOJ-led inter-agency panel to conduct “a judicious review of the anti-illegal drug operations where deaths occurred.”
However, due to constraints like typhoons and the coronavirus pandemic, he said the review panel initially focused on areas with the highest number of incidents -- Bulacan, Pampanga, and Cavite.