The move of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to pursue its investigation into reported deaths during the illegal drugs operations of the past administration is an “affirmation” of the government’s sworn obligation to protect and preserve human rights.
This was the statement issued by CHR Spokesperson and Executive Director Jacqueline Ann de Guia after Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla announced the continued probe and assured data sharing with the CHR.
Remulla had earlier said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has started probing 250 more cases of deaths during the drug war operations under the administration of former President Duterte.
“Prior to our assumption to office there are 250 other cases referred to the NBI by Secretary Guevarra [now Solicitor General Menardo I. Guevarra] and the NBI is working on them,” Remulla said during a press conference on Wednesday, Aug. 3.
He said the 250 cases are different from the 52 cases previously submitted by the Philippine National Police (PNP) for review before the DOJ.
In the same event, Remulla said the country’s justice system remains functioning and that there is no need for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate alleged crimes committed during the past administration.
President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. had announced that the Philippines will not rejoin the ICC after its membership was abrogated in 2018.
Also, in her statement for the CHR, De Guia lauded the enforcement of the data sharing agreement (DSA) between the DOJ and the commission on cases of extra-legal killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and other grave human rights violations.
“The DSA demonstrates the mutual cooperation of the two institutions to uphold human rights and serve the ends of justice for drug war victims,” De Guia.
On President Marcos Jr.’s announcement against rejoining ICC, De Guia said: “On this, we recognize the DOJ’s confirmation that ICC will be furnished with all available information as a matter of comity. SOJ Remulla further declared objectivity, saying that there will be ‘no sacred cows, no matter who they are.'”
At the same time, De Guia expressed concern over the lack of witnesses in the investigation of illegal drugs cases. Should witnesses come forward, they must be accorded with safety and protection without discrimination, she said.
“Assurance by the government that testimonies of witnesses will be heard and not be met with violence or intimidation is a rightful step towards ending a culture of fear and silence,” she added.