DOJ, PNP walk a tightrope when it comes to drug war records
MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have decided to walk on the safe side when it comes to the drug war records because President Rodrigo Duterte said it had national security implications.
“If you want to get it [records], we can’t give everything — not because we are hiding some facts that [are] known to us but unknown to you. But national security issues are part of this,” Duterte said Monday.
The President was reacting to the presentation of Interior Secretary Eduardo Año showing data that deaths still occurred during legitimate police anti-drug operations. This should be a lesson for the human rights sector — that deaths in the drug war may not be avoidable, he said.
The President and the Supreme Court have differing views about the drug war document. In 2018, the Supreme Court said drug war documents do not involve national security.
“The information and documents related to routine police operations involving violations of laws against the sale or use of illegal drugs. There is no showing that the country’s territorial integrity, national sovereignty, independence, or foreign relations will be compromised or prejudiced by the release of this information and documents to this Court or even to the public,” the Supreme Court said.
The high court noted that the Duterte administration, in a 2017 accomplishment report, stated that from July 1, 2016, to November 27, 2017, there are a total of 20,032 deaths or an average of 39.36 deaths daily.
“This Court wants to know why so many deaths happened as expressly reported under the section “Fighting Illegal Drugs” of the Duterte’s Administration 2017 Yearend Report,” it said. It added that “the government’s inclusion of these deaths among its other accomplishments may lead to the inference that these are state-sponsored killings.”
For Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, he said with the concern on the President’s part, they will “play it by ear” when it comes to drug war documents.
“We’ll just be more careful,” he said in a virtual press conference during the signing of the Joint Memorandum Circular on the guidelines on apprehension and investigation of persons for violation of health and quarantine regulations.
Meanwhile, on the part of the PNP, the DOJ who is reviewing drug war cases will have access to only 53 documents. PNP Chief Guillermo Eleazar previously promised access to 61 cases then eventually said the DOJ could access all drug war records. But today, access is given to 53 because the other eight cases are on appeal, he said.
“Yun muna ang ibibigay natin because of those regulations. [That is what we will give access to for now because of those regulations],” Eleazar said.
Guevarra said: “So I suppose that the President really meant that in the general cooperation between PNP and DOJ, concerns about national security should be properly addressed.”
For records excluded from the 53 cases, Eleazar said the DOJ could have access “as long as it will not violate data privacy law.
The next question is, will the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) have access to the same documents?
Guevarra said, “this is something that we are seriously considering because we have also made an arrangement with CHR on our mutual cooperation with respect to the implementation, rather the enforcement of our rules and the conduct of our investigation with respect of the EO 55 (on extra-judicial killings).”