HRW asks Guevarra to convince Duterte on more accountability in police operations

Published May 25, 2021, 9:49 AM

by Jeffrey Damicog

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has asked Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra to convince President Duterte to ensure more accountability on the part of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in its operations against illegal drugs.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra(PCOO / MANILA BULLETIN)
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra(PCOO / MANILA BULLETIN)

It aired its call after Guevarra disclosed last Monday, May 25, that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been allowed access to 61 cases of killings in illegal drugs operations and that policemen involved were found administratively and criminally liable.

Guevarra also said that the DOJ and the PNP will sign an agreement on the investigation of the alleged extra-judicial killings (EJKs) and operations that resulted in deaths to suspects.

In a statement issued by Carlos H. Conde, HRW senior researcher, the group said: “But a mere 61 cases where, in his words, clear liability was established – that is a woefully paltry number considering that more than 7,000 killings by the police have been officially recorded.”

“Instead of spinning this as moving the needle for accountability, he should convince his president to crack the whip on the police to force it to be more forthcoming and to be more serious about accountability,” Conde said.

He pointed out that even if PNP’s granting of access to the 61 cases can be considered as progress, “the slow pace of the DOJ review and the evident unwillingness of the PNP to fully cooperate with the DOJ only underscore the tokenism that is at play ever since Guevarra made his promise to the UN Human Rights Council.”

In June 2020, Guevarra reported to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that the government has formed a DOJ-led inter-agency review panel to conduct “a judicious review of the 5,655 anti-illegal drug operations where deaths occurred.”

Last Feb. 24, he also told UNHRC that the review panel found that “in more than half of the records reviewed, the law enforcement agents involved failed to follow standard protocols pertaining to coordination with other agencies and the processing of the crime scene.”

But Conde said “there is no urgency at all in the government’s response, even as the ‘drug war’ killings continue to occur on a regular basis.”

“The council (UNHRC) should now see what’s happening for what it is: an effort to mislead the international community about the horrific rights situation in the Philippines,” he stressed in his statement.