Press Release
2 July 2020

Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, ‪+639173162831‬
Karapatan Public Information Desk, ‪+639189790580

DOJ inter-agency panel to probe drug war killings a deception tactic to evade ICC investigation — Karapatan

Human rights watchdog Karapatan reasserted its call for an independent investigation of international human rights bodies into the Duterte administration’s “worsening human rights violations and deplorable crimes against humanity” as it assailed the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) creation of a so-called inter-agency panel to investigate the thousands of deaths in the government’s sham drug war.

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said “had the Duterte government been actually sincere in holding itself accountable through domestic mechanisms, it would have already done so long ago, but the DOJ panel looks more like a deception tactic to preempt and evade any concrete investigation from international bodies such as the United Nations human rights mechanisms and the International Criminal Court than an actual avenue to exact accountability.”

In a video speech delivered before the 44th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC) last Tuesday, June 30, DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that his department is leading an inter-agency panel external to the Philippine National Police (PNP) in conducting a “judicious review” of the 5,655 reported deaths in anti-drug police operations. Purporting that “[c]laims that there is impunity or near-impunity in the country find no anchor” in the Philippine justice system that supposedly “provides every avenue to examine, establish and pursue a claim of wrongdoing by a State actor,” Guevarra contended the government’s “strong position against calls for an independent investigative mechanism” such as the one made before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“It is more than conspicuous, however, that domestic mechanisms are severely inadequate — if not outright failing — especially with the worsening climate of impunity under Duterte. We have been on this road before, of creation of task forces and commissions which do not deliver justice and accountability but are only put up to make it appear that they are doing something about the killings. These were used as tools for whitewashing instead of rendering and establishing justice and accountability,” Palabay rebutted.

Karapatan recalled the creation of the Melo Commission and Task Force Usig, as well as human rights offices of the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, during the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration to purportedly investigate extrajudicial killings of activists, and the inter-agency task force in accordance to Benigno Aquino III’s Administrative Order 35, which the current administration continues to implement, as among the numerous examples of such “inutile bodies that did not result in the prosecution and conviction of all human rights violators among State forces.”

“These bodies also barely scratched the surface on State policies driving these extrajudicial killings and thus, as a result, contributed in the whitewashing of these crimes and in worsening the human rights situation in the country” Palabay averred.

The Karapatan officer further said that “with the looming enactment of the draconian Anti-Terrorism Act, critics and dissenters run the clear risk of being silenced, jailed, or even killed for calling out the government’s continuing abuses and fascist attacks on people’s rights — making any effort from the government to probe its own abuses a ridiculous farce in a desperate attempt to save face before the international community and the Filipino people’s widespread demand for justice and accountability.”

“We hope that the ICC pursues its examination and investigation on the complaints pending before the said body, as we reiterate our call to the UN HRC for an independent investigation. The time of reckoning will come for Duterte and his cabal of corrupt criminals, bloodthirsty murderers, and fascist human rights violators. We enjoin all freedom-loving Filipinos to stand for human rights and democracy, and we will not stop in our fight to demand justice,” she ended. ###


Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
2nd Flr. Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin corner Matatag Sts., Central District
Diliman, Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146

KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.