“DOJ’s initial report will not deter ICC from investigating EJKs”

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) initial report into suspicious deaths of suspected suspects at the hands of police officers during drug operations is not enough to deter the impending International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into thousands of extrajudicial killings across the country, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said yesterday.

Drilon, a former justice secretary, pointed out that the DOJ had only managed to review 52 of the nearly 6,000 extrajudicial killings (EJK) incidents, even as the Duterte administration insists that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the Philippines.

Malacañang said that in addition to President Duterte removing the country from the Rome Statute – the treaty that created the ICC – the country’s judicial system is functioning as shown by the DOJ’s investigation of suspected EJKs due to the administration’s war on drugs.

“Of course that (the functioning justice system) is their defense (of the administration). Whether the ICC believe it or not, we still can’t say for sure at this point, ”Drilon told dwIZ in Filipino.

He said whether or not a country has a credible justice system is one of the parameters of the ICC whether or not to conduct an investigation, but it is not the only consideration for the International Court.

“There are also many other bases (for investigating), such as threats and scrutiny of government agencies to show that the justice system is not working,” he said.

He said it was only after five years that the administration began investigating such cases, despite a loud clamor from within the country and from the international community, when EJKs began to increase at an alarming rate. .

Drilon recalled that during the early years of administration, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigated the growing number of EJKs, and it had requested that post-op police report hundreds of cases.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) submitted the report after the operations to the committee, only to recover them in less than 24 hours, citing the need to seek permission from Malaca̱ang Рmuch to the dismay of senators as the files are considered public documents.

Last September, the ICC ordered an investigation into the cases against Duterte for alleged crimes against humanity as part of his campaign against illegal drugs, following a request by the prosecutor of the Court, Fatou Bensouda, before she left office.

In her request, Bensouda said that after analyzing a large amount of information, she determined “that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the crime against humanity of murder was committed in the territory of the Philippines. between July 1, 2016 and March 16, 2019 as part of the Philippine government’s “war on drugs” campaign.

Bensouda’s successor, Karim Khan, pledged to conduct an independent and impartial investigation to “uncover the truth and aim to ensure accountability” and to bring justice to the victims.

Duterte said earlier that he would not participate in any ICC investigation because the body no longer has jurisdiction over the country. Duterte in 2018 withdrew the Philippines from the Rome Statute. The withdrawal took effect in 2019.

The ICC, however, said it still has jurisdiction over alleged crimes allegedly taking place in the country from 2016 to 2019.

Limited information

At the same time, human rights organization Amnesty International said that “the matrix recently released by the Justice Ministry – containing limited information from its review of just 52 cases out of thousands of deaths over the course of drug operations – is another deeply disappointing indicator of the continued lack of accountability for the thousands of unlawful killings and other crimes under international law, as well as human rights violations committed under international law. so-called “war on drugs”.

The group remains concerned that the Philippine authorities, including the current review of the DOJ, continue to show no significant progress towards access to justice and reparations for victims, nor to make a clear commitment to end its bloody crackdown on illegal drugs.

This DOJ investigation comes as new national and international demands for accountability are made for crimes under international law and human rights violations committed as part of the “war on drugs” launched by the Duterte administration in 2016.

The UN Human Rights Council, although it has not mandated an investigative mechanism, recently provided a grim update on the human rights situation in the country in the part of the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in September this year.

In addition, in the country itself, civil society and the public are increasingly calling for candidates in the upcoming national elections in May 2022 to condemn and propose alternatives that are more respectful of human and human rights. to address the health and human rights impacts of use and sale. drugs, the group said.

“Despite growing national and international concerns, the DOJ’s review is clearly insufficient and insincere. When first announced by the Philippine government in July 2020, the timeline and circumstances for this review were clearly designed to protect the government from international scrutiny and include the very agencies involved in the killings and other violations. human rights. the illegal use of force by the police must be carried out by a service or unit which has no connection with the officials under investigation, in order to guarantee the independence and impartiality of the process, ”the group said in a statement.

The group added: “Despite tens of thousands of murders during drug-fighting police operations, the majority of which are known to be extrajudicial killings, the matrix released by the DOJ examines only 52 cases, the only ones submitted by the PNP to DOJ to review.

Drug operations killings of police continue to be reported even during the COVID-19 pandemic, but police and the Justice Department have yet to launch credible investigations into recent killings . “

In addition, Amnesty International said: “The documentation from the Ministry of Justice on the 52 cases contradicts the police account that those killed in police operations retaliated, thus justifying the use of lethal force.

It illustrates the brutality with which anti-drug operations are carried out by the police: many victims suffered multiple gunshot wounds, some at close range and others to the head, showing a clear intention to kill.

The review identifies serious deficiencies in police procedures, such as the lack of autopsy reports, ballistic or paraffin tests, medical or death certificates, and other required forms and reports.

He added: “The methodology of the DOJ investigation is of deep concern. Details of the full review remain inaccessible to the public, with the report itself classified as a confidential note to the president from the DOJ. “

The DOJ also said it is still consulting the PNP – whose members are widely believed to be behind the killings and other human rights violations – on whether the families of the victims may receive copies of the report.

The Human Rights Commission was not involved in the review process, unlike the previous engagement of the Philippine government.

To date, there have been no concrete proposals for reparation and reparation for the families of the victims, who were also not interviewed or otherwise included in the preparation of the report, and they have not been interviewed or otherwise included in the preparation of the report. could not access the results of the examination other than this way. recently released matrix, the release said.

According to the group, these procedural issues, the worrying number of cases included in the report and the long delay in releasing the results of the review raise concerns that the rest of the investigative process is also flawed and will not succeed. to justice for the families of the victims, nor to put an end to the anti-drug campaign which has left a legacy of violence, death and suffering. – Rhodina Villanueva

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