JUSTICE Secretary Menardo Guevarra said some 154 policemen involved in 52 anti-illegal drug operations where deaths occurred will be investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for possible criminal liability. 

Guevarra made the disclosure after meeting with the leadership of the Philippine National Police (PNP) on Friday to discuss the findings of the DOJ panel on the 52 cases that were turned over by the panel for review. 

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

DOJ Undersecretary Adrian Sugay, however, clarified that one case that the panel reviewed was not drug-related while no death occurred in another case. 

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. 

During, Guevarra said the justice department told the PNP that based on the facts gathered by its IAS, the police officers involved in these cases were not only administratively liable. 

“The existing evidence pointed to their possible criminal liability as well. The DOJ, thus informed the PNP that these cases will be endorsed to the NBI for case build-up and filing of criminal complaints if warranted by the evidence,” Guevarra said. 

“Around 154 police officers were involved in these 52 cases,” Guevarra added. 

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

However, if the NBI will deem that the evidence available is not sufficient to support the filing of a complaint, the agency will conduct further investigation in order to gather more evidence. 

He added that the participation of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in the investigation to be conducted by the NBI may be tapped.  

Also during the meeting, Guevarra said the PNP and the DOJ through the NBI have agreed to institutionalize cooperation in investigating similar cases in the future, in order to determine simultaneously the administrative and criminal liabilities of those the policemen involved. 

“The PNP and the DOJ are one in the belief that the war against drugs could be won without the use of excessive force and unnecessary loss of lives,” the DOJ secretary stressed. 

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 the panel intends to review a total of 5,655 anti-illegal drugs operations where deaths occurred.  

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