Eleazar insists PH justice system 'working' as ICC seeks full probe on Duterte's drug war

Published June 18, 2021, 5:17 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

The wheels of justice in the country “are in motion” and local remedies “are working” when it comes to investigating claims of human rights abuses in the all-out war against illegal drugs launched by President Duterte in 2016.

PNP Chief General Guillermo Eleazar (File photo/ MANILA BULLETIN)

This was the assurance made by Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar on Friday, June 18, after the International Criminal Court (ICC) expressed interest in launching a full-blown probe on the alleged crimes against humanity committed by the government when it launched its brutal anti-narcotics crackdown five years ago.

“When it comes to domestic remedies, may mga ahensya po tayo na kasalukuyan nang tumitingin sa mga alegasyon ng human rights violations sa bansa (we have government agencies looking into allegations of human rights violations in the country),” Eleazar said.

Last June 14, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda requested judicial authorization to proceed with a full investigation on the Duterte administration’s war on drugs after concluding the preliminary investigation launched on Feb. 8, 2018.

“I have determined that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the crime against humanity of murder has been committed on the territory of the Philippines between July 1, 2016 and March 16, 2019 in the context of the Government of Philippines ‘war on drugs’ campaign,” Bensouda said in a statement.

Duterte just shrugged off the ICC’s planned investigation, according to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

But Eleazar insisted that there are government agencies in the country that are already investigating and resolving claims of human rights abuse in the drug war. This could be interpreted by some as a hint to PNP’s unwillingness to cooperate with the ICC in connection with the probe

Eleazar cited the partnership of the PNP and the Department of Justice (DOJ) in reviewing cases involving policemen who were found to have committed lapses on the Police Operating Procedures (POP) in the conduct of anti-illegal drug operations.

On June 1, Eleazar announced that the PNP would share 53 case records of drug suspects who died in anti-illegal drug operations. This was a backtrack from the previous remark of the DOJ that the PNP would be willing to open 61 drug war cases where it found lapses on the part of the cops.

But either figure is just a small fraction of the thousands of cases of drug suspects who have been slain since 2016, with most of them dying after they allegedly fought back (“nanlaban”) against the police.

From July 1, 2016 to April 30, 2021, the national government said a total of 6,117 persons have died during anti-drug operations based on the data from the Real Numbers PH–the government’s monitoring system with regard to the death toll linked to the drug war.

Human rights groups have claimed that these numbers were underreported, and that the actual death toll was way higher.

But Eleazar maintained that the PNP has been transparent in its anti-illegal drug operations, hence, their partnership with the DOJ to review some of the drug war cases.

“Our giving access to these documents to the DOJ for review is our openness to holding PNP personnel accountable for their crimes should there be a finding of criminal liability by the agency,” he said.

“We have nothing to hide and we have committed to make available to the DOJ any other document that may be asked of us in the course of the department’s review,” he added.