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DOJ approves release of EJK probe findings

The Department of Justice gave the green light Tuesday for the release to the public of an “information table” on the results of the investigation by its review panel involving the cases of the 52 anti-illegal drug operations where deaths occurred.

It was part “of the Department’s recognition of the importance of transparency in its review process-balanced with the consideration of respecting due process as the NBI ‘s investigation and case buildup begins,” the DOJ said in a statement.

“The Department hereby authorizes the release of an information table concerning certain details of the 52 cases (i.e., docket numbers, names of deceased suspect/suspects, places, and dates of the incidents, and the DOJ Review Panel’s summary of observations),” it added.

Meanwhile, the government will exert “greater efforts” to uphold and promote the improvement of the rule of law in the country, according to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque.

Roque repeated the stance of Guevarra on the matter, after the Philippines was placed 102 out of 139 nations on the ranking of rule law based on the 2021 World Justice Project.

“Well, we stand by what Secretary of Justice Menardo Guevarra said that we are going to exert greater efforts to uphold and promote the rule of law in the country,” Roque said during a Palace briefing.

The Palace official stood firm on the justice secretary’s stance that the crime rate in the country has decreased in recent years, except for a few sensational cases.

“Aside from this, our government is addressing the human rights violations and alleged abuses in the conduct of the anti-illegal drug campaign,” Roque said.

The DOJ review panel on anti-illegal drug war operations conducted by the Philippine National Police has recommended to the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct a case buildup against 154 policemen involved in the said 52 anti-illegal drug operations for possible criminal liabilities.

The 52 cases scrutinized by the panel involve findings of administrative liability by the PNP Internal Affairs Service against hundreds of police personnel for alleged misconduct in the anti-illegal drug operations.

Guevarra stressed the DOJ decided to release to the public the information to inform the families and loved ones of the 52 deceased suspects that the NBI is now looking into the circumstances surrounding their deaths, to determine possible criminal liabilities of policemen involved in each incidence.

He said this would also help encourage witnesses to come out and help the NBI by giving their statements to hasten the case buildup against erring policemen and the possible filing of charges against them.

When asked whether the President gave his go-signal for the DOJ to release the “information table” on the 52 cases, Guevarra replied: “The President has expressly directed the DOJ and the PNP to review the conduct of the war on drugs, and has publicly stated that all those who acted ‘beyond bounds’ should be held accountable for any unlawful acts or omissions, that is a clear signal that transparency in the drug war review will be observed.”

The findings and recommendations of the panel have been submitted by the DOJ to President Duterte, who recently said before the United Nations General Assembly that he has instructed the DOJ and PNP to review the conduct of the government’s campaign against illegal drugs and to make accountable those who acted beyond what the law requires.

In the panel’s earlier meeting with the PNP, Guevarra said the justice department told the former that based on the facts gathered by its IAS, the police officers involved in these cases were not only administratively liable.

If the NBI would rule that the PNP-IAS findings were enough to establish criminal liability against the police officers, Guevarra said the agency may file the complaints directly.

But if the NBI would deem the evidence available were not sufficient to support the filing of a complaint, the agency would conduct further investigation to gather more evidence.

Pending the NBI’s investigation of the 154 policemen, Guevarra said the justice department would focus its attention on the nearly 100 other similar cases undergoing preliminary investigation or court trial involving law enforcers accused of committing crimes during anti-illegal drug operations across the country.

In his report before the 44th UN Human Rights Council Session last February, Guevarra said that the DOJ panel intends to review a total of 5,655 anti-illegal drugs operations where deaths occurred.

Roque added: “You know, the rule of law has five pillars. The Executive is in charge of two — the police and jails. We need to unite with other pillars including society as it is part of the criminal justice system.”

“Other institutions or pillars in the criminal justice system must do their part. But we need our judiciary to hasten the process, and we need our civil society to keep watch and use our process so that all violators will be punished, if necessary,” he said.

The WJP also reported that the Philippines’ score dropped by 2.9% in this year’s index to 0.46 on a zero to one scale. A score of one indicates the strongest adherence to the rule of law.

The score placed the Philippines at 13th out of 15 countries in the East Asia and the Pacific region, unchanged from the previous index and ahead only of Myanmar and Cambodia.

The index measures adherence to the rule of law based on eight indicators namely constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice, and criminal justice.

Topics: Department of Justice , Information table , National Bureau of Investigation , Harry Roque
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