PH to UNHRC: ‘New tact on war vs illegal drugs’

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla

Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla told the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that the Philippine government has adopted a different approach in dealing with the illegal drugs problem.

Remulla conveyed the Philippines’ stand on drugs problems in his speech on Wednesday, Oct. 5, before the 51st Regular Session UNHRC-Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the Philippines being held in Geneva, Switzerland.

“President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has refocused the anti-illegal drug campaign – tackling the source of the problem. He has stated that criminal masterminds must be apprehended and punished, not small-scale users on the street. He has emphasized the need for rehabilitation, prevention, education and assistance to victims and their families,” Remulla said in his speech.

He said the “targeted and bold measures aim to change the culture of our judicial and law enforcement system, which have produced certain flaws and delays in the carriage of justice.”

He also said that President Marcos has "reminded the Philippine National Police that the use of force must always be reasonable, accountable, justifiable, and only utilized when necessary.”

“An internal disciplinary program has been enacted to right the wrongs of erring law enforcement officials that abuse their power and the public trust,” he cited.

For its part, Remulla said the DOJ already has a review panel to re-examine incidents that transpired in the context of the government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign.

“Recently, at least seven (7) incidents involving deaths were filed before the courts, for which 25 police officers have been indicted. At least eight (8) police officers were dismissed from the service, and five (5) suspended or sanctioned. A total of 302 cases have been referred by the Review Panel to the National Bureau of Investigation for case buildup,” he disclosed.

Remulla also told UNHRC:

“We continue to invite CSOs (civil society organizations), witnesses, and families of victims to come forward and provide information and file appropriate cases that will help the Review Panel in the investigations and to secure justice for the family of victims.

“The Department is ready to provide needed support and security to witnesses, with a more comprehensive witness protection program so that fear will not impede justice. This is about protection, not politics.

“At the Department of Justice, we are serious about human rights. We want to inject human rights into every step of our law enforcement and judicial processes. This assures that no one is left behind and that the wheels of justice truly serve all without distinction. It makes for a solid foundation of a civilized, democratic society – which is at the heart of Filipino culture, identity and history. We are reforming our system to deliver what our people deserve best - real justice in real time.

“The Department of Justice is working closely with the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Supreme Court – through the Justice Sector Coordinating Council – a mechanism for effective coordination and sharing of information, planning, and implementation of joint initiatives.

“We are reinforcing the interfaces between prosecutors and law enforcement – streamlining investigative and accountability processes and having them work together during case build-up investigation. This will improve the quality of cases that reach the courts, chances of success in prosecution, certainty of punishment, and deterrence against criminality.”

At the same time, Remulla said that last September “371 persons deprived of their liberty, many of whom had already served their sentences if not for procedural oversights, were released from prison.”

He said the DOJ is “decentralizing our congested prison system" and expressed his personal commitment “to continuing regular releases and aim to have 5,000 persons released by June next year.”

Also taking into account the rights of women and children in the new law enforcement and judicial framework, he also disclosed that in the following months “we will further improve the current prosecution success rate of 88 percent for cases involving women, and 96 percent for cases involving children.”

He assured that the Philippines values human rights and even cited that the country’s Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is “replete with human rights safeguards having been crafted in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, including CSOs, and after careful study of relevant international instruments and similar laws mostly of developed countries.”

He thanked the High Commissioner’s report on the Philippines that recognized “the many strides made by the Philippines in its ongoing efforts to strengthen domestic human rights mechanisms and frameworks.”

“We would like to stress, however, that many of the recommendations outlined in the report are already being undertaken, including those pertaining to enhancing cooperation between law enforcement agencies, CSOs, and the CHR (Commission on Human Rights); multi-stakeholder consultation on the next iteration of the National Action Plan on Human Rights; and implementation of a comprehensive, victim-centric, and human rights-based approach to the illicit drug problem and terrorism, among others.” he added.