PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte would have to decide whether to publish the results of a Justice department investigation of at least 300 more drug-related deaths, the agency said on Thursday.
“We submitted our report directly to the President,” Justice Undersecretary Adrian Ferdinand S. Sugay told a televised news briefing. “We leave it up to them.”
The Department of Justice (DoJ) could release its findings only with presidential approval, he added.
Philippine police had lied about conditions surrounding the deaths of suspects in raids involving Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs, the Justice department said on Wednesday.
Drug suspects in 52 cases neither fought back nor resisted arrest, contrary to police claims, with many of the cases lacking witnesses, the agency said in a 21-page report, citing forensic evidence.
The report showed that in most cases, erring cops only got a slap on the wrist, having faced demotion or suspension.
The review of just 52 cases barely scratched the surface and was grossly insufficient and inconsistent with government commitments under international law review on extralegal killings, the Free Legal Assistance Group said.
Mr. Sugay said the National Bureau of Investigation was building up the cases against erring cops.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) may use the DoJ’s finding in the 52 cases, where 154 policemen were involved, he added.
Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Herminio “Harry” L. Roque, Jr. said the DoJ report showed the Duterte government’s commitment to protect Filipinos.
“The findings of the Department of Justice reversing the original findings of the Philippine National Police’s Internal Affairs prove that we are fulfilling our obligation to protect the right to life,” he told a separate televised news briefing.
He denied critics’ observations that the DoJ findings proved the state had been lenient with erring cops.
“On the contrary, the DoJ decision proves that we are not soft because cases will be filed against cops involved in the 52 cases,” Mr. Roque said.
The DoJ released the report months after the ICC ordered an investigation of Mr. Duterte’s crackdown on illegal drugs that has killed thousands. The United Nations-backed court found “reasonable basis” that crimes against humanity might have been committed.
Former ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda sought the investigation before she retired in June, alleging that “state actors, primarily members of the Philippine security forces, killed thousands of suspected drug users and other civilians during official law enforcement operations.”
The Philippine Commission on Human Rights has said the state was violating human rights for abetting police abuses.
Mr. Duterte last month told the UN General Assembly in a taped video that anyone found to have “acted beyond bounds” in his campaign against illegal drugs would be held accountable. He also appeared to brush off the ICC’s planned probe.
The tough-talking leader said he had ordered a review of the conduct of the campaign, and the Justice department was looking at the files of drug dealers.
He said his government was working with the UN Human Rights Council to look into the cases.
Senator Ronald M. Dela Rosa, Mr. Duterte’s former police chief who enforced the anti-illegal drug campaign, on Tuesday said he would block any investigation attempts — if he becomes president next year — by the ICC.
He said he would allow ICC investigators to visit the Philippines to “observe” but not to investigate.
An investigation by the Hague-based tribunal would be a slap in the face for Philippine courts that are still functioning, he added.
The European Union in September last year threatened to revoke tariff perks the Philippines has enjoyed since 2014 given the “seriousness of human rights violations” under the Duterte government. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza