DOJ probe of drug war killings includes 100 PDEA operations | Inquirer News

DOJ probe of drug war killings includes 100 PDEA operations

Guevarra: Hard to link Duterte with high number of slain lawyers since 2016

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra. (File photo by Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice (DOJ) has begun examining at least 100 operations conducted by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) that resulted in the killing of drug suspects.

“We have scrutinized the case folders from PDEA. But we need to get more substantial information,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said in a Viber message on Tuesday.


He said the review panel had prioritized cases involving 154 cops whose administrative liabilities for the deaths of 52 suspects had already been established by the Internal Affairs Service of the Philippine National Police.

“We will proceed with the PDEA cases. That’s where we are going now,” Guevarra said.


But that figure pales in comparison with the staggering number of mostly poor Filipinos killed in President Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, which human rights advocates estimate at 30,000 since 2016.

‘Crime washing’

At the House of Representatives, Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate pointed out that the number cited by Guevarra was barely 0.9 percent of the total deaths based on PNP data.

“Why limit the filing of cases to 52 killings of drug suspects only when the PNP itself admitted that there were 6,000 drug suspects, more or less, who were killed since July 1, 2016, in this bloody drug war?” Zarate said.

He said the limited number of cases to be examined was “highly unacceptable and may be interpreted as an attempt at ‘crime washing’ the culpability of law enforcement officers and their agents in the dubious ‘nanlaban’ narrative.”

PNP data show that 6,165 drug suspects were killed from July 2016 to June 2021 under the antidrug campaign.

Both the PNP and PDEA, the law enforcement agencies tasked to carry out Mr. Duterte’s brutal antidrug campaign, have submitted to the DOJ documents on the “nanlaban” cases, or incidents in which drug suspects were killed for supposedly resisting arrest.

The President had openly directed antinarcotics agents to kill drug suspects—remarks that, according to his critics, may be used to pursue the complaint filed against him in the International Criminal Court.


Homicide at least

Justice Undersecretary Adrian Sugay said the policemen implicated in questionable drug-related killings may be indicted for homicide or murder.

Speaking at the daily Laging Handa press briefing, Sugay echoed Guevarra’s assurance that no one would be spared in the DOJ review of the antidrug campaign.

“Most of these cases really deserved a closer look since there were police protocols that [were] violated,” Sugay said.

“Regarding their criminal liability, which is the subject of the review being conducted by the DOJ, the policemen may be charged with murder or, at the very least, homicide,” he said.

Make it public

Zarate said the DOJ should make public its investigation report on how many of those involved in the thousands of drug killings had been acquitted.

“The DOJ should also submit its full report to Congress, as it committed to do during the budget deliberations,” he said.

He also said the 154 policemen should be immediately put on preventive suspension.

“Considering the lapse of time since these killings started in 2016, the tampering of evidence to erase any culpability by those involved is not remote. Thus, the DOJ-led investigation should also address this issue to prevent further injustice done to the victims and their families,” he said.

Zarate also said the DOJ must assure the public that all drug-related killings, starting with the more than 6,000 admitted by the PNP, would be thoroughly investigated.

On Monday Guevarra told the Inquirer that the DOJ review would not end with the 154 policemen identified.

“If in the course of the investigation it would appear that other persons were likewise involved in any capacity whatsoever, so be it,” he said.

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TAGS: DOJ drug war probe, drug war killings, Menardo Guevarra, PDEA operations
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