The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has lamented its “meager” role in the probe and review of cases involving deaths as a result of police operations against illegal drugs.
It said its assistance as envisioned by the Department of Justice (DOJ) could have been a more direct involvement, instead of merely facilitating access to victims and their families, and helping them file charges, CHR Spokesperson and lawyer Jacqueline Ann De Guia said.
“What they contemplate right now [in] the CHR helping the review panel [is] in terms of granting access to the victims so that ultimately in the end we can file charges through the cooperation of the victims,” she said.
“It would have been more ideal if say, for example, we would have to be granted full access to the report, but at this point, we will welcome any steps right now, any gesture of cooperation. We are optimistic that this is just the beginning of [a] deeper engagement with the DOJ review panel,” she added.
During the meeting between the DOJ and CHR on last May 26, Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said that the Philippine National Police (PNP) still has some reservations about sharing its data with the CHR. The PNP had agreed to share records of the cases with the DOJ.
De Guia said the “DOJ often has difficulty in accessing victims, because of their fear and because of the intimidation that they face.”
As a result, she said, violators do not end up facing the law because no charges are being filed against them.
With more trust and confidence in the CHR, De Guia expressed hopes that the commission will be able to guide the victims in filing cases.
“We foresee that maybe more victims will file more cases and we’ve seen that in our data. Ten percent at least of the 100 percent [of] cases that we are investigating are those that have been filed by the complainant directly so that’s also good indication,” she said.
“What’s important here is that when victims and witnesses see that government is willing to investigate or to provide access to remedies and ensure accountability and they see that the government is sincere, then they will be also encouraged to file cases,” she added.
The CHR had earlier asked the PNP if it can also be given access to documents on about 7,000 cases of illegal drug operations conducted by the police since 2016.
The request was made as the CHR expressed its gratitude to the announcement of PNP Chief Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar to open to the DOJ the records of the cases.
De Guia described Eleazar’s announcement a “welcome” development and hoped that the PNP will maintain this “momentum” of openness.
“This is a gesture of openness and cooperation from the PNP necessary in pursuing justice and accountability for the violations committed,” she said.