Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra said that the war on drugs was not a crime against humanity but a legitimate law enforcement operation that targeted the traffic in illegal drugs.
“‘Yung war on drugs, talagang ‘yung tinatarget natin doon ay ‘yung crime, ‘yung illegal traffic and illegal drugs," said Guevarra in the latest episode of The Mangahas Interviews. "Hindi natin tinatarget ‘yung drug pusher or ‘yung user. Ang tinatarget natin ay ‘yung crime. It’s a legitimate law enforcement operation.”
(The war on drugs, what we are really targeting is the crime, illegal traffic and illegal drugs. We do not target drug pushers or users. What we are targeting is the crime. It's a legitimate law enforcement operation.)
“Ngayon maihahalintulad ba natin ‘yan sa mga war crimes, sa genocide? Parang hindi siya apporpriate na ma-classify as a crime against humanity kasi hindi naman ganiyan ang intensyon ng war on drugs eh, ang tinatarget niyan mapigil o ma-stop ang proliferation ng illegal drugs kaya nga lang in the process ay may namamatay,” he added.
(Now can we compare that to war crimes, to genocide? It seems that it is not appropriate to be classified as a crime against humanity because that is not the intention of the war on drugs, it aims to prevent or stop the proliferation of illegal drugs. However, someone dies in the process.)
When asked about the confirmed number of illegal drug-related deaths and who was responsible for the deaths, Guevarra said, “Sa pagkakaalam ko, parang may official figure na nanggaling mismo sa kapulisan kasi sila lang naman talaga ang unang makakaalam.”
(As far as I know, there seems to be an official figure from the police because they are the only ones who would have first-hand knowledge.)
“Ang bilang nila is mahigit 6,000 ang mga namatay so parang in a way, it is an admission na ganoon karami ang namatay,” he added.
(Their number is more than 6,000 dead, so it seems, in a way, it is an admission that many have died.)
Guevarra stated that approximately 80% of the drug-death cases could not be processed due to a lack of testimonies and witnesses. He said that even the families of the victims were not cooperating.
“Baka natatakot sila or baka wala talaga silang tiwala. Kaya ineencourage ko sila lagi na magtiwala, kasi kung hindi, paano tayo magkakaroon ng hustisya rito? Bibigyan naman kayo ng proteksyon,” he said.
(Maybe they are scared or maybe they don't trust us. So I always encourage them to trust, because if not, how can we have justice? They would be given protection.)
While Guevarra said that investigations on drug-related deaths were progressing, he also admitted it was difficult due to institutional constraints like the lack of funds and personnel.
However, these difficulties were not "sufficient reasons to call other institutions to take over the investigations."
“Hindi naman tama ‘yon,” he said.
(It wouldn't be right.)
Guevarra also said the Philippines' appeal against the resumption of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor's Office investigation into the drug war killings remained active.
"Mayroong banggit na, napanood ko sa TV yung sinabi ng [Pangulong Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos. Parang sinabi niya na, 'Our appeal has failed.' It gave me the impression na ang tingin niya ay dismissed na yung ating appeal," said the Solicitor General.
(I heard it mentioned on TV that the President supposedly said, "Our appeal has failed." It gave me the impression that, in his view, our appeal had been dismissed.)
"Buhay na buhay pa yung apela natin. As a matter of fact, yung ICC prosecutor next week pa mag-fa-file yun ng response doon sa ating appeal brief. It's a long process, it's still there. It's still pending," Guevarra countered.
"Quite unfortunately, itong Appeals Chamber, pinost agad nila sa website yung ruling nila on non-incidental matter. Ano yung incidental matter na yun? Hiniling kasi natin sa appeal natin na pansamantala, while the appeal is pending, ay bigyan muna nila ng tinatawag na suspensive effect yung filing natin ng appeal," he added.
Guevarra explained further the Appeals Chamber had posted their ruling online before sending the Philippine government an official notification.
"Baka naman may nabasa ang Presidente na rejected yung appeal. Naging ganun yung impression sa presidente. Ngayong araw na ito, nagpadala na ako ng official memo sa presidente para maadvice ko siya kung ano talaga estado ng ating appeal," said Guevarra. — Sherylin Untalan/DVM, GMA Integrated News