war on drugs

DOJ asks for patience in disclosing drug war review reports

Lian Buan

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DOJ asks for patience in disclosing drug war review reports

DOJ-PNP. File photo of the meeting between Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and police chief Guillermo Eleazar on May 21, 2022, that resulted in the PNP opening its case files which are covered by the second report.

Photo from DOJ

Justice Secretary Guevarra will meet police chief Eleazar next week to discuss their report. It has been 1 month since the second report, and 1 year and 3 months since the opening of review.

A little more patience.

That is what Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters on Wednesday, September 22, when he was pressed for the content of the second report of their drug war review.

“By next week you’ll probably know where this is going. So konting patience lang (Just a little patience). We’re not doing things in secret,” Guevarra said on Wednesday.

The second report, which covers 52 cases where the police has already established administrative liability, was finished on August 18, and was submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte early September. Nothing about the second report has been disclosed.

The first report, which covered 300 cases, revealed lapse of protocols as Guevarra announced to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC) last February. The full report is still under wraps.

Guevarra said the release of the reports required Duterte’s clearance.

The justice secretary said he will meet with Philippine National Police chief General Guillermo Eleazar next week.

The reports contain Department of Justice (DOJ) recommendations. But these recommendations are also still unknown, and the most the public has gotten since the opening of the review in June 2020 was Guevarra’s speech to the UNHCR in February.

“We’ll sit down with the PNP chief in the next few days to discuss our report as well as the President’s directive given at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) . Then we’ll inform all of you. We just want to do things the proper way,” said Guevarra.

It took a meeting between Guevarra and Eleazar in May, when the latter was newly-installed, for the PNP to finally open its case files. But what was originally a full access was later whittled down to just 52 because Duterte was concerned about national security.

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Same review, but with ‘greater vigor’

Guevarra was referring to Duterte’s speech at the UNGA Wednesday saying he has instructed the DOJ and the PNP to review the drug war, where as of last data, the police has killed more than 7,000 in legitimate anti-drug operations.

But the instruction Duterte was referring to at the UNGA was not a new directive, but just a reiteration of the drug war review opened in June 2020.

Guevarra said the speech is “a clear directive to pursue with greater vigor the ongoing review of drug death cases and to commence legal actions if found warranted.”

Eleazar told Rappler “‘yun pa ‘yung dati, kung may bago man, related pa rin ‘yun sa ongoing review (that’s the same thing, if there’s anything new, it’s still related to the ongoing review).”

Commencing legal action, or filing of criminal complaints if warranted, has been the goal of the review all along. But the DOJ has not shown up to now if complaints have been filed as a result of the review.

Carlos Conde, senior Philippine researcher of the international group Human Rights Watch (HRW), said Duterte’s UNGA speech “is his last-ditch attempt to mislead the international community.”

“His claim that his government has conducted a review of how the drug war has been enforced belies the fact that, more than a year later, the government has nothing to show for it. What the public has gotten instead are more propaganda and stonewalling by the authorities,” said Conde.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is currently investigating drug war killings, and Davao city killings under Duterte. Human rights advocates have upped the pressure on the UN HRC to take a more decisive action on the killings, compared to what they call as the “disappointing” resolution to offer technical assistance to the government’s human rights program.

“But while the program, indeed, is commendable for its objectives – like fixing the problems in institutions that deal with human rights –  it allowed Duterte to mislead the international community about the brutal realities on the ground. Worse, it has not answered the urgent prayers and pleas of thousands and thousands of families of victims: to stop the violence and bring those responsible to justice,” said Conde.

DOJ asks for patience in disclosing drug war review reports


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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.