Detained Senator Leila de Lima said the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) move to form an inter-agency team to review the killings linked to police in the Duterte administration’s war on drugs is just “too late, too little and too weak.”
De Lima said the move is President Duterte’s last-ditch attempt at throwing a monkey wrench to derail the work of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) which has formally sought an investigation into the extra-judicial killings (EJK) in the administration’s brutal “drug war” and other cases of gross violations of human rights in the Philippines.
The senator pointed out that in December 2016, she had already submitted to the Senate her dissenting report on the extrajudicial killings probe where she recommended the immediate creation of an independent national investigation to be led by former Supreme Court justices.
“My recommendation fell on deaf ears. Earlier, in September, of that same year, I introduced a proposed Senate resolution urging the Duterte administration to invite the UN Special Rapporteur on Summary Executions to conduct a country visit. Again my proposal got nowhere,” De Lima said in a statement.
De Lima also predicted the work of the DOJ-led panel would be limited as it is mandated to only review the killings by the police during their operations. She also observed it will not even cover the killings done by other state-inspired death squads, or vigilantes.
“It doesn’t also touch on other egregious crimes, such as torture, arbitrary detention, sexual assaults and others, that have been committed in Duterte’s war on drugs,” the senator lamented.
Moreover, she said, she doubts that this inter-agency team will exact accountability from Duterte, saying she believes it will merely allow the President to be instantly “off the hook” as he, along with the co-architects of the drug war and other masterminds of the mass murder of poor drug suspects, are not within the ambit of the panel’s review.
“An independent body of higher mandate, and not Executive-controlled, is what is called for,” she said.
“In Secretary of Justice (Menardo) Guevarra’s own words, the panel will conduct a ‘judicious review’ of deaths during police operations. This ‘review’ is definitely not the preliminary investigation that the DOJ regularly conducts on criminal cases, not even evidence-gathering or case build-up, that can lead to prosecution of the accused in courts,” she further said.
“Primarily, the reviewing panel re-evaluates cases and examines the propriety of reinvestigating them. This is a circuitous and cumbersome exercise that nowhere amounts to a formal investigative or prosecutorial process. In short: a shallow and listless initiative,” she pointed out.
“Unless and until we see any actual, significant and concrete achievements, in terms of case build-up and prosecution of EJK offenders, the sincerity of this initiative will remain dubious at best,” she said.
“For the moment, this representation will call it as it is—a desperate, last-minute attempt at evading accountability,” De Lima reiterated.