MANILA, Philippines – Leftist lawmakers scrutinized during the House plenary budget debates on Wednesday, September 6, the incomplete data of the Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding drug war-related cases and other incidences of extrajudicial killings (EJK).
Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate said there seemed to be a “cleaning up” of records because the DOJ's inter-agency committee tasked to investigate EJK cases involving cause-oriented groups, activists and journalists recorded 'zero cases' in 2016.
“From July 2016 to March 2017 alone, meron pong naitalang 47 cases of EJK ang Karapatan. At kahapon lang ’yung binaril ng CAFGU (Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit) na isang grade 6 student sa Davao del Norte,” Zarate said. (From July 2016 to March 2017 alone, Karapatan recorded 47 cases of EJK. And just yesterday, a grade 6 student in Davao del Norte was shot dead by a member of the CAFGU.) Karapatan is a human rights group.
Zarate was referring to the Inter-Agency Committee on Extra-Legal Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torture and Other Grave Violations of the Right to Life, Liberty and Security of Persons, which was created by former president Benigno Aquino’s Administrative Order (AO) 35 in 2012. AO 35 does not cover EJK cases related to the government’s ongoing war on drugs.
AO 35’s committee has a proposed budget of P33.2 million for 2018. DOJ has an overall proposal of P17.275 billion for 2018, including all of its attached agencies.
“Obviously the inter agency committee is not working as it should,” Act Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio said.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II was at the House of Representatives for the hearing along with his undersecretaries and other heads of attached agencies, but they did not answer questions from interpellators.
It is the budget sponsor, in this case, committee on appropriations vice chairperson Oriental Mindoro Representative Doy Leachon who answered on their behalf.
According to Leachon, the committee’s technical working group decides if a case falls under AO35. He said there may have been EJK cases during that period, but they were not endorsed to the committee.
“We’ll take a second look at those cases recorded to them and see if they fall under AO 35,” Leachon said.
Tinio moved to dissolve the working group, which Leachon agreed to.
“Nandun po ang aming garantiya na pinapaabot ng departamento na sila ay rerepasuhin at magpupulong buwan buwa. Nandun po ang pag-amin ng pagkukulang kaya ito po ay tutugunan. We really intend to comply to the directives of AO 35,” Leachon said. (There is the guarantee by the DOJ that they will dissolve the group and that they will now meet monthly. They admit to some lapses and they will address this.)
When Zarate suggested to draft a new AO that would address EJKs related to the war on drugs, Leachon said the suggestion is noted but that the DOJ has not been "remiss in its duty."
Aguirre earlier told the House committee on appropriations that he does not see the need to create an independent body either.
How many drug-war EJK cases?
During the plenary debate, Zarate wanted to know how many drug war deaths have been investigated by the DOJ and its prosecutors. Members of both the Senate and the House of Representatives have repeatedly asked Aguirre this same question during the committee-level budget hearings.
During Wednesday’s debate, Leachon said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) handled 50 drug war-related EJK cases. Of the 50, 7 were recommended for filing before prosecutors, 4 were temporarily closed and 39 were ongoing.
NBI Director Dante Gierran clarified to Senators in a separate hearing that these are only the complaints that reached their agency because some may have been handled by the police.
However, in an interview with reporters at the Senate on August 31, Aguirre cited a different number. He said there are 71 drug-war related EJK cases in all prosecution offices nationwide. Aguirre said it is separate from the NBI’s 50 cases. Watch the interview below:
Rappler has repeatedly asked DOJ for details about the prosecuted EJK cases, and recently, the said 71 cases. Though the receipt of the query was acknowledged by DOJ, no information has yet been provided in over a month.
Cases filed in court
Apart from deaths arising from the war on drugs, Tinio also wanted to know the number of cases related to the violation of the drug law.
Leachon said there were 900,000 cases being handled by the National Prosecution Service (NPS). This covers all prosecutors.
Of the 900,000 cases, 65,119 have been filed in court, said Leachon.
Tinio wanted to know how many cases were filed against drug importers and manufacturers. Leachon said there was no specific data available.
Tinio said the weakness of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs is that it seems to be targeting only street-level pushers and users.
“Ang mga natatarget ‘yung mga official na protector ng drug lords, pero yung mga drug lords ay nameless, parang hindi nata-target (Officials who protect the drug lords are the ones targeted, but the drug lords who remain nameless are not),” Tinio said.
Tinio challenged Leachon to name notable incidents where a drug importer or a drug supplier have been charged in court in the course of the drug war, but Leachon said he would rather wait for the DOJ to provide data. –Rappler.com