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Rights group slams PNP’s drug war investigation

Human rights group Karapatan on Friday said that the Philippine National Police (PNP) was committed to holding itself accountable, then the deaths in the government’s war against drugs should have been investigated long ago.

The group made the statement after the PNP granted the Justice department access to the records of 61 investigations against policemen in anti-drug operations, which it said represents less than one percent of the over 7,800 deaths reported by authorities since the bloody war began in 2016.

“Opening 61 cases out of thousands is too little. The investigations are already too late,” Karapatan Secretary General Christina Palabay said in an e-mailed statement.

“The PNP should’ve not even allowed the death toll in the brutal drug war to reach thousands just to launch an investigation [now],” he added. “Any investigation now won’t bring back the lives claimed by the government’s murderous campaign.”

Fatou Bensouda, former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, earlier said there is reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity had been committed under the administration’s drug war.

Her office said those crimes, including murder, torture, infliction of serious physical injury and mental harm, happened between July 1, 2016 and March 16, 2019.

“Genuine accountability seems dim when the [President’s] allies and specifically one of the drug war’s chief architects, former PNP chief Senator Ronald ‘Bato’ dela Rosa, are pushing for amendments to the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act that would only give a legal cover to the killings, arbitrary arrests, and other human rights violations in the drug war,” Ms. Palabay said.

In March, Congress approved House Bill No. 7814, which proposes an amendment to Republic Act No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Act of 2002, stating that “unless proven otherwise, a person found or is present in the immediate vicinity of the area of sale, trading, marketing, dispensation, delivery or distribution, is presumed to have been involved in the sale, trade, or distribution of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors or essential chemicals.”

The bill imposes death as the maximum penalty for drug criminals “but capital punishment has not been reimposed in the country,” Ms. Palabay pointed out. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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