THE Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday, October 20, released information on the 52 drug war-related deaths that underwent its panel’s scrutiny in a bid to uphold transparency on the government’s highly criticized crackdown on illegal drugs.

Majority of the 52 cases were buy-bust operations that police involved said have turned into a shootout after the subjects resisted arrest.

But it was noted that in six cases, the suspects were negative for the presence of gunpowder, suggesting that they did not fire shots and that the police lied.

These six cases include that of 17-year-old Nave Perry Alcantara, who was killed in buy-bust operation in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan on August 21, 2021; Benjamin Calisnao in Aparri, Cagayan on August 2, 2017; Crispin Vedano in Bansud, Oriental Mindoro on January 23, 2020; Celvin Pernes in Tanza, Cavite on July 5, 2020; Edgar Iloilo Jr. in Antipolo City on September 26, 2016; and an alias Jay-r in Rodriguez, Rizal on October 29, 2016.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) Internal Affairs Service also expressed doubt on the claim of the cops involved in the case of Alcantara that they only acted on self-defense.

“IAS noted that, at the time of shooting, the suspect and the police operative who shot the suspect were standing only a meter apart,” the report reads.

“According to IAS, excessive force appeared to have been used by the police operatives,” it added.

In the case of Iloilo, the IAS said the operation was found to be legitimate but the police involved gave conflicting versions of the events that led to the suspect’s death.

Alias Jay-r was shot in a close range, which made IAS conclude that the police employed excessive force during the operation.

Two police officers involved in the death of Iloilo were dismissed from service, while the other involved in the six operations, respectively, were meted 600 days to six months suspension.

The reports also noted that in many cases, the necessary documentation and examination, such as ballistics or paraffin tests, autopsy report, death certificates, pre-operation report, coordination form, chain-of-custody form and Scene of the Crime Operatives’ reports to support the operation, was lacking.

The cops were punished either by demotion or suspension.

The names of the cops involved were not included in the report.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the National Bureau of Investigation will conduct a case build-up and will file criminal charges against the cops involved.

This was the first time the government released such information since the drug war started in July 2016 when President Rodrigo Duterte took office.

Meanwhile, human rights watchdog Karapatan said the DOJ should go beyond slapping erring cops with criminal charges as the families of the drug war victims deserve more.

“These persistent and still-unanswered questions lead to a view that these efforts, aside from being too little and too late, can only be a mere window dressing by the current administration amidst the magnified scrutiny from the ICC and the United Nations Human Rights Council. If clear patterns of the killings, as well as the level of command responsibility and policy issues on these killings and rights violations remain unaddressed, piecemeal acts such as this review do little to render justice and to will and institute genuine policy change,” Kaparatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said in a statement.

“That one of the chief architects of this murderous campaign has the audacity to run for the highest position in the land — with the explicit goal, no less, of protecting himself and President Duterte from the ICC’s investigation — should spell out the clear urgency of an international, independent, and impartial investigation into the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines in order to hold accountable the perpetrators of these crimes against humanity and bring them to justice, and to ensure that they never hold any position in public office again,” she added. (SunStar Philippines)