Rise Up for Life and for Rights said that the initial findings of the inter-agency panel tasked to review the drug-related killings in the country only “proved the point in the cases of families whose loved ones have been killed – that they were killed in cold blood and that there was cover-up by the police and authorities, while the President cheered them on.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – For the families killed in the government’s campaign against illegal drugs, there is no indication that the domestic mechanisms for accountability are working in the Philippines.
This is after Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra’s speech before the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Wednesday, Feb. 24 saying that the legal and judicial system and domestic accountability mechanisms in the country are functioning.
In a statement, Rise Up for Life and for Rights said that the initial findings of the inter-agency panel tasked to review the drug-related killings in the country only “proved the point in the cases of families whose loved ones have been killed – that they were killed in cold blood and that there was cover-up by the police and authorities, while the President cheered them on.”
The inter-agency panel’s review states that law enforcers involved failed to follow standard protocols in processing the crime scene, and that “no full examination of the weapon” was conducted in cases where victims supposedly fought back (nanlaban).
Guevarra said that these initial findings have been referred to the police and “an appropriate internal investigations of thousands of these incidents have been conducted. And scores of police officers have been recommended for administrative and criminal action.”
Rise Up for Life and for Rights said that numerous cases filed by relatives of the victims at the Ombudsman have been dismissed. Hundreds others have been denied their right to obtain documents and reports from the police. The group pointed out that many of the perpetrators of the killings remain at large.
Human Rights Watch Asia Deputy Director Phil Robertson, meanwhile, pointed out that Guevarra’s statement reveals the level of impunity in the country.
“He is now revealing a reality that was obvious to those in the affected communities, namely that after killings occurred, there were no subsequent police investigations into the circumstances of what took place. The real name for that is impunity, and these police failures were so systematic that these oversights go well past the accidental or inadvertent failures,” Robertson said.
Human rights alliance Karapatan retorted that more than four years after the so-called domestic mechanisms cited by Guevarra, “we are still counting the bodies, we are still looking at numerous perpetrators in uniform unpunished, and we still hear the President and his henchmen justify the murder spree.”
“Indeed, there is no amount of window-dressing even at the UN that can hide these indisputable facts,” Karapatan said.
Rise Up for Life and for Rights added that Guevarra, in claiming that the campaign against illegal drugs is widely supported by Filipinos, “fails to acknowledge the deep pain and difficult circumstances of families, mainly from poor communities, victimized in this murderous campaign that has taken the lives of tens of thousands of Filipinos.”
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) National President Edre Olalia, meanwhile, maintained that those primary responsible for the killings should be held accountable.
Olalia said that the inter-agency panel’s report appeared to have “wittingly or unwittingly diverts the primary and sole blame on lowly police operatives and insulated and saved the principal enablers of the extrajudicial killings: President Duterte himself and top officials goading, sanctioning and condoning the extrajudicial killings.”
Karapatan said that the initial findings of the inter-agency panel have only proved that an “independent probe is even more important.”