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Gov’t has created panel to review deadly police anti-drug ops, Guevarra tells UNHRC


The Duterte administration has created an inter-agency panel that will review thousands of police anti-illegal drug operations that resulted in deaths, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Tuesday.

The Department of Justice chairs the panel, which is conducting a "judicious review" of 5,655 police operations, Guevarra told the United Nations Human Rights Council.

External to police mechanisms, the review panel "reevaluates these cases and examines the propriety of reinvestigating them or filing appropriate charges against erring law enforcement officers," the official said.

Guevarra said the panel intends to engage the affected families by providing them with legal options and assisting in the prosecution of the concerned law enforcers.

The Commission on Human Rights will serve as an independent monitoring body, he said.

He said the panel will present a report on its work by the end of November 2020.

Guevarra made the statement weeks after the office of UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet released a report finding "near impunity" for extrajudicial killings committed in the Philippines.

Undersecretary Markk Perete said work on the review panel, composed of nine other offices, started in February.

The Presidential Communications Operations Office, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat, the Presidential Management Staff, the Dangerous Drugs Board, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the Philippine National Police, and the National Bureau of Investigation are also part of the panel.

Perete said they have started a "preliminary review" of the files.

Guevarra said the review mechanism will "reinforce accountability" in the drug campaign and "tighten the web of existing mechanisms to prevent cases of impunity."

Independence

In his address to the UN body, Guevarra said claims of impunity in the Philippines "find no anchor in a system that provides every avenue to examine, establish and pursue a claim of wrongdoing by a state actor, if such claim is substantiated with facts."

"The continued, unhampered functioning of the Philippine CHR underpins our strong position against calls for an independent investigative mechanism, including the one made before the International Criminal Court (ICC) from which we have withdrawn," he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte and several government officials face charges before the ICC for alleged crimes against humanity in connection with the war on drugs.

The Philippines' withdrawal from the ICC's establishing treaty did not stop the international tribunal's prosecutor from continuing a preliminary examination into the allegations.

The ICC, however, may only admit cases if the state involved is unable or unwilling to carry out genuine investigations. The Duterte administration has argued that Philippine courts are functioning.

Guevarra echoed this position on Tuesday, citing the convictions of retired Army major general Jovito Palparan and of the Ampatuans of Maguindanao as affirmations of the "independence" of Philippine courts.

"We take each case brought before our authorities with the diligence it deserves. In the same manner we ask that the human rights mechanisms exercise due diligence in validating allegations brought before them by parties," he said.

In addition, Guevarra warned against conclusions of certain situations or cases being "systemic" or "emblematic"—he said that while the international community welcomed the decision in the Maguindanao Massacre case, it "entertains allegations" of Philippine courts' partiality in other cases.

"Logic should be consistent on the principle of the equal application of law, and in making judgments about the independence of the judiciary and the outcomes of judicial processes," he said. — BM, GMA News

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