THE PHILIPPINE government should provide more assistance to families of drug war victims and fast-track pending cases involving erring police officers, a human rights lawyer said on Tuesday
“The relatives of thousands of other victims are still crying for justice,” Ephraim B. Cortez, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, said in a Viber message.
“Only a handful have been investigated and only a small percentage were actually charged and prosecuted in the case.”
Justice spokesman Jose Dominic F. Clavano IV did not immediately reply to a Viber message seeking comment.
The Navotas Regional Trial Court Branch 287 recently convicted a police officer of murder over the killing of two teenagers in 2017. The same cop was convicted in November by a Caloocan trial court of torture and planting of evidence in the killing of 19-year-old Carl Angelo M. Arnaiz and 14-year-old Reynaldo D. De Guzman.
The Justice department filed the charges before the court in 2018 against two policemen involved in the murder of the two teens. The other cop died of hepatitis in 2019, while in detention.
Mr. Cortez said the conviction was a welcome development for accountability in the drug war but cited the need to hold more rogue law enforcers responsible for other drug war killings.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) in January reopened its probe into killings and so-called crimes against humanity under ex-President R. Duterte’s anti-illegal drug campaign. The Hague-based tribunal said it was not satisfied with Philippine efforts to probe the deaths.
President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. has called the ICC’s probe a threat to Philippine sovereignty. He said the country’s justice system could punish erring officials.
At least 25 police officers have been charged with murder in connection with ex-President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s deadly drug war, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla told the United Nations Human Rights Council in November.
An inter-agency task force on extralegal killings had investigated at least 17,000 cops, he added.
The Philippine government estimates that at least 6,117 suspected drug dealers were killed in police operations under the Duterte administration. Human rights groups say as many as 30,000 suspects died.
“There are several cases pending in court against these perpetrators, but a majority, if not all, of these cases, were prosecuted at the instance of the relatives, with the assistance of volunteer lawyers,” Mr. Cortez said.
“In these cases, they received no assistance at all from the government, even in the procurement and preservation of evidence.” — John Victor D. Ordoñez