DOJ: All behind drug war will ‘be made to account’
MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Monday said the government’s inquiry into the drug war would not end with the 154 policemen who would be investigated for the deaths of 52 drug suspects — a minuscule figure among the more than 10,000 estimated victims of that bloody campaign.
“At the first instance, the investigation will focus on those who were actually involved in the ground operations and were identified as such by the PNP-IAS,” Guevarra told the Inquirer, referring to the Internal Affairs Service of the Philippine National Police which, he said, has established the administrative liability of those policemen in their operations.
“If in the course of the investigation it would appear that other persons were likewise involved in any capacity whatsoever, so be it,” Guevarra said.
“All persons against whom competent evidence will show a degree of culpability shall be made to account,” he said further.
Asked if this would include President Rodrigo Duterte, he said, “We’ll cross the bridge when we get there.”
Mr. Duterte directed the Department of Justice (DOJ) to conduct a review of the drug war, amid international pressure against this campaign which last month prompted the International Criminal Court (ICC) to approve a full investigation.
The President, who had earned the moniker “The Punisher” for his take-no-prisoner strategy in his fight against illegal drugs and criminality when he was Davao City mayor, had openly advocated the killing of drug suspects.
But Mr. Duterte has also been known to change his position time and again on this and other public matters. On the heels of the ICC’s motion for a full inquiry, he ordered both the DOJ and PNP to go after policemen who had acted “beyond bounds” in the course of the drug war.
In keeping with the international pressure on the drug war, global civil society alliance Civicus Monitor has called on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to conduct its own inquiry into the Philippines’ drug war.
In a statement, the coalition said the council must ensure that the Philippine drug war remains on its agenda and persuade the country to cooperate with the ICC.
Civicus Monitor also flagged a resolution by the UNHRC in October last year which called for “technical cooperation and capacity building” for the human rights situation in the Philippines.
That motion, the council said, stopped short of pursuing a full investigation of the drug war, and instead offered to “capacitate” the Philippine government in addressing such concerns.
Civicus Monitor urged the UNHRC to “continue to exert pressure” on Philippine authorities to take concrete actions to end human rights violations and to establish an independent investigative mechanism to probe abuses in the country.
Guevarra himself has reported to the council on the progress of the government’s inquiry into the drug war.
The justice chief said he had directed the National Bureau of Investigation to coordinate with the PNP in its probe of the 154 policemen.
PNP chief Guillermo Eleazar said in a statement, “As part of our commitment to fully cooperate with the DOJ, I have already ordered the creation of a top-level PNP coordinating group that will work closely with the [NBI] in the conduct of case buildup and filing of criminal complaints based on the evidence that would be gathered.”
Eleazar said the PNP’s cooperation with the DOJ is “in the interest of transparency and accountability.”
“In the last five years, our intensified campaign against illegal drugs has been plagued with doubts and allegations resulting in the disregard for our hard work and sacrifice in pursuit of illegal drug syndicates,” Eleazar said.
“As chief of the PNP, I cannot allow and I cannot ignore all of these to persist because what is at stake here, more than credibility that we want to protect, is the honor and dignity of the police organization especially in the eyes of the young and future generations of Filipinos,” he added.
“We assure the Filipino people that your PNP will remain committed in the search for truth in all of these cases and right now, we believe that we are on the right track in pursuing this commitment,” Eleazar said.