The anomaly of PNP’s consent to DOJ access to drug war info

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    ‘The timing of this PNP-DOJ collaboration makes us suspicious that it is more for show rather than a sincere desire to render justice to the victims by holding those responsible for the killings responsible.’

    THE PNP thinks it’s doing Filipinos a favor by allowing the Department of Justice access to 61 cases of killings involving police officers in President Duterte’s bloody drug war.

    Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra is very grateful and called it a “very significant milestone” because it “did not happen in previous years.”

    This is no different from Duterte thanking China for allowing Filipino fishermen to fish in the area of Scarborough Shoal, a Philippine territory. But it’s another topic that requires a separate discussion.

    This so-called “very significant milestone” came after a meeting with newly-installed PNP chief Guillermo Eleazar, who said this is being done to dispel allegations they are hiding facts on the killings to protect police personnel involved in carrying out Duterte’s brutal banner program that has elicited international concern and condemnation.

    No one is biting the bait, especially those directly involved in the cases of the victims.

    Not Joel Butuyan of Centerlaw, which represents families of the victims of the drug war in 28 barangays in San Andres Bukid.

    Butuyan said: “The fact that the PNP’s consent is required for the DOJ to investigate the deaths in the hands of policemen is in itself anomalous.

    “The DOJ is supposed to have unobstructed leeway to conduct investigations when deaths occur in the hands of policemen. In fact, under DOJ rules, when death occurs during a police investigation, the police are required to submit all relevant documents to the prosecutors and the prosecutors are mandated to conduct a preliminary investigation. So, all deaths in the hands of policemen, should have been investigated by the DOJ, and the police should submit all documents, not just the 61 deaths in question,” he added.

    Edre Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL)-Philippines that also represents several families of victims of Duterte’s drug war, is wary that “it might be another tokenistic and cynical mirage, a puny, even if sincere, desire at real institutional reforms that actually go far beyond them alone.”

    He said victims, families and witnesses in the so-called drug war and rights advocates “cannot be euphoric at this supposed shift.”

    “With grounded disbelief, they should see it for what it might be: a finger to plug the hole in the dam, i.e. to deflect and dissipate overwhelming criticisms over the lack of immediate, fair and comprehensive accountability,” he said in a statement.

    “That only 61 cases are currently seen with ‘clear liability’ out of the thousands of cases that are supposedly within the purview of the drug war panel review is simply incredible and scanty when seen in the context of the records, experience and reality over time,” he noted.

    “The disclosure of the records, given the inordinate delay, the hemming and hedging, the issues of transparency, impartiality and independence, and the insultingly petty number to be made available, may even eventually validate the view that it may have been sanitized and cherry-picked to be used as possible ‘showcases,’ inconclusive or not emblematic as they may turn out to be,” Olalia said.

    The international Human Rights Watch describes the PNP-DOJ collaboration as “a breakthrough” while noting that Eleazar was a key enforcer of Duterte’s drug war.

    With only five months before his retirement, HRW said, “If Eleazar is serious about these reforms, he should ensure the police’s full cooperation with investigators into the ‘drug war’ killings and take more concrete steps to hold abusive officers accountable.”

    DOJ noted that the 61 cases constitute less than one percent of the more than 7,000 cases of deaths during police drug operations, based on official government figures.

    The 7,000 is disputable because as early as 2017, government data said more than 20,000 were killed in Duterte’s war on drugs. Which of those killings were done by police officers cannot be ascertained because as CenterLaw said in its manifestation before the Supreme Court, the PNP gave them “rubbish” documents unrelated to the drug war when they were compelled by the High Court to provide the petitioners’ records of police operations.

    The timing of this PNP-DOJ collaboration makes us suspicious that it is more for show rather than a sincere desire to render justice to the victims by holding those responsible for the killings responsible.

    Is the PNP-DOJ collaboration designed to make up for the unimpressive “less than one percent of more than 7,000” figure?