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DoJ readies charges vs ‘EJK’ policemen

The cops claimed that when they approached the vehicle, one suspect was holding a gun that prompted the police officers to fire a single shot, killing two other occupants in the vehicle.



The Department of Justice (DoJ) has begun case building against erring policemen involved in the government’s anti-drug war after it had found damning information that some law enforcers used self-defense to justify killing suspects.

In a 21-page document published Wednesday, the DoJ said forensic evidence in several cases of drug war killings investigated by the Philippine National Police Internal Affairs Service (PNP-IAS) had shown that slain suspects did not fire guns, contrary to claims by the anti-narcotics operatives.

This was the explanation of the IAS in the circumstances that led to the killing of 17-year-old Nave Perry Alcantara in Tuguegarao in August 2018.

The suspect sustained three gunshot wounds, showing force appeared to have been used by the police. The paraffin test also showed that both hands of the suspect were negative for gunpowder nitrates.

One of the cops on-site only received a 60-day suspension while administrative charges were dropped against his fellow operatives.

Other cops were merely demoted or suspended for a couple of months.


Slaps on wrists

Meanwhile, those involved in the shooting of Adan Abarkis in Biñan, Laguna also in 2018 were meted with a 60-day suspension despite medico-legal findings that the suspect died from being shot at “close range” on his head and chest.

On the other hand, the said matrix also showed that three people died on 29 July 2016 after police officers flagged a vehicle at a checkpoint in Liloy, Zamboanga del Sur.

The DoJ observation showed: The cops claimed that when they approached the vehicle, one suspect was holding a gun that prompted the police officers to fire a single shot, killing two other occupants in the vehicle.

Also, two of the suspects had four gunshot wounds, while the third person was shot twice, and as per a medico-legal report, the victims appeared to have been shot at close range.

The unidentified number of cops involved in this operation were meted with dismissal from service.

These were but a few of the matrix released as the case build-up starts on possible “war on drugs” abuses from 2016.

The said matrix contains the review of case records where the PNP IAS found liability on police officers involved in the operations, though the information only included docket numbers, names of killed suspect, dates and places of incidents, IAS findings, and DoJ panel observations.


Protocols not followed

When Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra spoke in the United Nations rights body recently, he said the PNP failed to follow protocols in many drug operations.

So far, the DoJ gained access to 52 cases from the IAS, but one did not involve a drug operation and another had no fatality in it. The figure was only one percent of the 5,655 drug operations that resulted in deaths during the drug war.

In the 50 case records from the PNP’s Internal Affairs Service on “drug war” operations resulted in deaths, 12 were from incidents that happened in 2016. At least three of the case incidents had more than one suspect.

The data showed IAS recommendations on the police officers involved in the operation range from a reprimand, suspension with varying periods, demotion, and dismissal from service.

The majority of the deaths occurred during buy-bust operations, killings were also recorded in the implementation of search warrants or arrest warrants, and some victims were shot at checkpoints.

Case records of these operations have already been forwarded to the National Bureau of Investigation for case build-up.

Justice Undersecretary Adrian Sugay said due process considerations are the reason why the data released withheld names and the number of police officers involved in the operations as the cases have already been referred to the NBI.

The Palace commended the DoJ over its report, saying the matrix had demonstrated the working judicial processes in the country.

Presidential spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque said the department’s initial findings proved that President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration are fulfilling their duties to protect and promote the right to life.

“The state has an obligation. Whenever there is a violation of the right to life, the government should accord the victims an effective domestic remedy and this can be done through the filing of cases to ensure that the guilty individuals will be prosecuted and punished for their acts,” he said in a media forum.

“The filing of the cases against these individuals prove that the President is in discharge of his obligation as the chief implementer of the law because he has caused the filing of cases against them,” Roque added.

Human rights groups, however, remain dissatisfied with the administration’s efforts to prosecute erring officials in the bloody drug war.

The National Union of Public Lawyers (NUPL) said the DoJ’s move is just “going through the motions” rather than being a “proactive desire to decisively stop the carnage and the impunity.”

“But then again, considering the paltry number, the inordinate lateness, and the unusual tentativeness, the DoJ report is vulnerable to being viewed more of going through the motions rather than as a thoroughgoing and proactive desire to decisively stop the carnage and the impunity,” said NUPL president Edre Olalia.

“The sound of the trumpeting elephant in the room bellows: Why are these extrajudicial killings happening in the first place and why are a puny number of ‘erring police officers’ taking the fall all alone even at this very overdue time?” he added.


Window dressing?

Meanwhile, human rights group Karapatan added that the DoJ should go beyond a “mere filing of cases against erring police officers” as it questioned the small number of cases included in the report.

Karapatan Secretary General Kristina Palabay said these unanswered questions make it seem that these efforts can only be “mere window dressing by the current administration” especially amid the scrutiny of the International Criminal Court and the United Nations Human Rights Council.

“Without establishing the clear patterns of killings, as well as the level of command responsibility and policy issues on these violations, such piecemeal acts do little to render justice and to will and institute genuine policy change,” Palabay said.

The ICC has named President among the accused in its drug war investigation, which particularly involves drug-related killings logged from July 2016 to March 2019 — at a time when Duterte was president — as well as drug cases from November 2011 to June 2016 when Duterte was still Davao City mayor.

Duterte critics have called these cases “extrajudicial killings” or EJK.

The Hague-based tribunal launched the probe after its pre-trial chamber had found that there was a “reasonable basis” to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in the Duterte drug war.

with MJ Blancaflor