Too little, too late?: Senators weigh in on DOJ review of gov’t anti-drug war

Published October 21, 2021, 3:48 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senators on Thursday welcomed the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) move to review the Duterte government’s infamous war on drugs following indications of foul play and the involvement of policemen.

This was after the DOJ announced it will review the 52 cases of summary killings under that happened under the government’s brutal anti-narcotics drive.

Senator Leila de Lima said Malacañang would not be able to use the DOJ report to shield President Duterte from the International Criminal Court (ICC) which has formally opened an investigation into the possible crimes against humanity committed by the current administration.

“Kung inaakala ng Malacañang na magagamit itong DOJ report para makalusot si Duterte sa kaniyang kaso sa ICC, nagkakamali sila (If Malacañang thought they could use this DOJ report to excuse Duterte from his case before the ICC, they were wrong),” De Lima said referring to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“Lalo pa nitong ipinakita na walang ginawa ang administrasyon na ito upang pigilan ang malawakang pang-aabuso ng ating kapulisan sa ilalim ng madugong War on Drugs ni Duterte (This only showed that this administration did nothing to prevent the widespread abuse of our policemen under Duterte’s bloody war on drugs),” the senator added.

She noted that the DOJ report on its investigation of the 52 cases submitted by the Philippine National Police-Internal Affairs Service (PNP-IAS) looked at the cases separately and independently of each other.

“A glaring pattern was that the respondents used the ‘nanlaban’ defense, claiming that the victims used unlawful aggression to justify the killings. Then and now, we know it’s a sham narrative,” she pointed out.

However, De Lima said the release of the DOJ report is “too little, too late” as it is quiet on the culture of impunity which she said Duterte himself committed in the past six years of his term.

“This DOJ investigation is not meant to give justice to the family of the victms of extrajudicial killings. It is a mere theatrical performance to avoid criminal liability and accountability on the part of the foremost culprit, and ultimately, to forever deny these families of true justice,” she said.

Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, for his part, welcomed the DOJ report but said that in the pursuit of any criminal investigation, the rule of law should apply.

“In the pursuit of any criminal investigation, there is only one rule that applies. It is called the rule on evidence which should be bound by the rule of law,” Lacson said.

“Once such evidence is clearly established to warrant the filing of criminal information against identified suspects, there is no other course of action for the DOJ to pursue but to take those cases to their logical conclusion, no matter the consequences,” the senator said.

Nevertheless, Lacson said the role of the DOJ is crucial in showing the community of nations in general and the ICC, in particular, that as a civilized, democratic country, the Philippine government “can independently and responsibly hold criminally accountable our law enforcement officers—and their superiors, if the evidence so warrants—when they commit excesses in the performance if their sworn duties.”

“And the total war against drugs should not be an exception,” Lacson stressed.