The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) backed up the call of the Department of Justice (DOJ) for witnesses to come out and testify on the deaths of 56 persons in 52 cases of illegal drugs operations conducted by the police.

For its part, the CHR – in a statement issued by Spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia – said it will assist in the case buildup being conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) through its independent probe provided it is given access to pertinent case files.

On Wednesday, Oct 20, the DOJ released a 20-page information table on 52 “deadly” anti-illegal drugs operations conducted by the Philippine National Police (PNP). The names and circumstances of the deaths of 56 persons were included but the names of the policemen who were alleged to have committed criminal acts were not identified.

De Guia said the release of the information will greatly help the families of victims attain justice as it encourages more witnesses to come out and testify.

“We hope that the release of the said information may be helpful to the victims’ families in knowing the status of the investigation and, more importantly, encourage witnesses to come out and participate towards the resolution of cases of these deaths,” she said.

She pointed out that the first step towards making perpetrators accountable for their offenses is through genuine and straightforward investigations.

She recalled that in February 2021, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra reported before the United Nations Human Rights Council that, “in more than half of the records reviewed” of the 5,655 so-called “nanlaban (fought back)” deaths, it was observed that the police failed to follow standard protocols nor a full examination of the recovered weapons was conducted.

But she noted that the DOJ later revealed that its inquiry was only as far as 328 cases were concerned.

“For its part, the Philippine National Police in May 2021 gave access to 52 administrative cases involving alleged extrajudicial killings (EJK) during police operations for DOJ’s review,” she said.

The CHR, De Guia said, continues to urge the government to be mindful of the remaining thousands of cases of alleged extra-judicial killings (EJKs) waiting for resolution and justice.

It is the responsibility of the government to protect life and ensure justice for the violations of human rights, she added.