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HRW urges DOJ to keep promises, follow recommendations on drug war 'failures'

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to keep its promises and follow its recommendations regarding the alleged failures of the police force in its anti-drug operations.

“At this juncture, the DOJ should make good on its pledges contained in this statement and ensure that their recommendations are fully implemented,” HRW deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said in a statement.

Robertson issued statement after Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, in a speech, reported before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that many of the weapons of the suspects killed in President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs were left unexamined by authorities.

Guevarra said the inter-agency task group formed to look into the killings confirmed that many of the suspects resisted arrest or tried to draw their guns on government agents.

"Our initial and preliminary findings confirm that in many of these cases, law enforcement agents asserted that the subject that the subject of anti-drug operations resisted arrest or attempted to draw a weapon and fight back," Guevarra said.

"Yet, no full examination of the weapon recovered was conducted. No verification of its ownership was undertaken," he added.

Robertson said Guevarra's speech revealed "a reality that was obvious to those in the affected communities, namely that after killings occurred, there were no subsequent police investigations into the circumstances of what took place.”

“The real name for that is impunity, and these police failures were so systematic that these oversights go well past the accidental or inadvertent failures,” he added.

Robertson believes that the Philippines National Police was operationalized to act as a government "hit squad" to go after drug suspects, with policemen receiving direct encouragement from Duterte and their local commanders.

“The failures to investigate these killings were baked into the ‘drug war’ model from the start, with the police prepared to act because they knew that not only can they get away with it, but that they're supposed to get away with it,” he said.

Malacanang has repeatedly denied that the killings have Duterte's blessing.

Robertson said all the records of the police’s internal investigations into these killings should immediately be made public, including clear descriptions of any punitive measures imposed on the officers involved.

He also called on HRC member states to monitor the situation closely to ensure that DOJ's promises would not be just superficial.

“No one should forget that the Philippines government excels at telling the international community what it wants to hear in international meetings like this one, only to forget the pledges and the promised follow-up as soon as their officials arrive back home,” he said. —Joviland Rita/KBK, GMA News