The Department of Justice (DOJ) has authorized the release to the public of an “information table” pertaining to the results of the investigation conducted by its review panel involving 52 anti-illegal drug operations where deaths occurred.
It can be recalled that the DOJ review panel on anti-illegal drug war operations conducted by the Philippine National Police (PNP) has recommended to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct a case buildup against 154 policemen involved in the said 52 anti-illegal drug operations for possible criminal liabilities.
The 52 cases that were scrutinized by the panel involved 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.
“As 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 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),” DOJ said in a news statement issued on Tuesday.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the justice department decided to release to the public the said information in order to inform the families and loved ones of the 52 deceased suspects that the NBI is now looking into the circumstances surrounding their deaths and to determine possible criminal liabilities of policemen involved in each incidence.
The DOJ chief added that 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 President Duterte gave his go-signal for the DOJ to release the “information table” on the 52 cases, Guevarra said: “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.
Guevarra said the justice department told PNP officials that based on the facts gathered by its IAS, the police officers involved in these cases may not not only be administratively liable.
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 may deem that the evidence available are not sufficient to support the filing of a complaint, the agency will conduct further investigation in order 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 the panel intends to review a total of 5,655 anti-illegal drugs operations where deaths occurred.