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Despite the conclusion of the Department of Justice’s second report on the drug war, public access to these files remains unclear.
In a message to Rappler, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the DOJ had already finished the investigation into the 52 drug operations cases where administrative liability was established.
“I’m just going over it,” he added.
However, the justice secretary did not give a definite answer if the drug war records will be publicly available.
“We’ll discuss it with the PNP,” he said.
But in a press conference on Wednesday, August 18, Philippine National Police chief General Guillermo Eleazar said that it would be the DOJ that will decide if the drug war records would be made publicly available.
In May, Guevarra announced that the PNP had agreed to open 61 case records where the PNP Internal Affairs Service had already found liability of law enforcers. This was the result of a meeting between Guevarra and Eleazar.
From one agency to another
After Guevarra’s announcement that the justice department will launch a probe into the drug war cases, Eleazar announced on May 27 that the DOJ has the power to decide on whether to share police records with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the public in general.
When then-International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda sought a probe into President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war in June, Eleazar explained that they were in a chain of command so Interior Secretary Eduardo Año should decide if the records would be shared. As prescribed by the law, the interior department oversees the local governments, including the police.
Following the completion of DOJ’s drug war review, Eleazar once again said that the DOJ would decide on public access to the records.
“Well depende po ‘yan sa DOJ, since the President has given the imprimatur to the DOJ to review these cases. Kaya naman po kami, in our chain of command, upon seeking guidance from our SILG, ay nagko-cooperate po tayo sa kanila,” the PNP chief said on Wednesday.
(It depends on the DOJ, since the President has given the imprimatur to the DOJ to review these cases. On our part, in our chain of command, upon seeking guidance from our SILG, we are cooperating with them.)
How about victims’ families?
Even the access of the victim’s families to these drug war records remains unclear. (READ: Families of 3 drug war victims slain in Zamboanga del Norte pin hopes on ICC)
“All these matters will be discussed by the review panel,” he said, referring to families’ access to the police records.
“If criminal investigation is warranted, witnesses, including family members, will be sought and called upon to provide information,” he added.
The CHR had long pushed for access to the records, as part of its independent probe into the killings. But five years since Duterte started the drug war, the CHR remains on the sidelines of the PNP and the DOJ.
With more than hundreds of thousands of drug war operations conducted by Philippine authorities, at least 7,884 were killed based on records. With the DOJ and PNP finishing only 52 cases, only 1% of the drug war deaths would attain a semblance of justice with just 10 months left in the Duterte administration. – With reports from Lian Buan/ Rappler.com