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Palace vows charges vs 154 cops questioned in DoJ drug war report



Malacañang on Thursday rejected calls for another drug war review, saying the government will focus its efforts on building cases against 154 anti-narcotics operatives who allegedly violated state procedures during the bloody campaign.

Presidential spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque vowed that cases will be filed against police officers questioned by the Department of Justice (DoJ) in its 21-page report made public Wednesday.

“There is probably no need to make another demand for additional cases to be examined,” Roque said, speaking partly in Filipino. “The DoJ will continue [its review].”

He was referring to the DoJ’s study of 50 anti-drug operations carried out  since 2016 or during the start of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term. The report has cast doubt on claims of 154 policemen that they had acted in self-defense when they shot and killed suspects.

Roque expressed confidence that more evidence will be gathered against the policemen who allegedly violated the law.

In a separate briefing, Justice Undersecretary Adrian Sugay said the department will continue with its investigation and will “review and give proper recommendations” on cases that it had studied.

He added that the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has authorized an investigation into killings in the Philippines, could use the information from the review, noting that the report is an “open source information.”

“This information table, this matrix, if they want, they can use them,” he said. “That is up to the ICC.”

Roque, meanwhile, claimed that the DoJ report had shown that the President does not tolerate police officers who might have violated human rights, adding that the review had demonstrated the government’s efforts in fulfilling its duty to protect human rights.

“The decision of the DoJ proves that we are not soft because we will be filing cases against those involved in the cases,” he said.

Rights groups, however, downplayed the findings, calling on the justice department to go beyond the “mere filing of cases” against policemen.

They also claimed that the information provided by the DoJ “barely scratched” the surface of alleged abuses in the drug war, noting that the 50 cases investigated was just one percent of the 6,100 drug war deaths logged since 2016.

The DoJ review was also seen by critics as the government’s attempt to appease the international community which condemned the drug war, as the Philippines faces mounting pressure to hold a thorough probe after the ICC had announced it would investigate the crackdown.

The ICC has named the Chief Executive 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 in November 2011 to June 2016 when Duterte was still Davao City mayor.

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