JUSTICE Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday said the cooperation of witnesses in drug cases where deaths occurred are vital in the ongoing review of such cases by the Department of Justice-led panel.
Guevarra made the statement in response to the speech made by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet during the 47th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), where she stressed that the reinvestigation of cases by the panel should produce “meaningful results.”
Without the cooperation of the witnesses and families of those who were allegedly summarily executed during anti-illegal drug operations, it would be difficult for the panel to bring the involved police officers before the courts.
At present, Guevarra said the panel has been given access by the Philippine National Police to records of 52 cases investigated by the PNP-Internal Affairs Service (IAS).
These cases involve findings of administrative liability against hundreds of police personnel for alleged misconduct in the course of anti-illegal drug operations.
The panel has also received 107 case files from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) for review.
While it is reviewing these records, the panel is also monitoring the preliminary investigation and prosecution of 87 criminal cases lodged against more than a hundred law enforcers for alleged wrongful conduct during anti-illegal drug operations.
“The DOJ review panel will go where the evidence available will lead it,” Guevarra said.
“But, the cooperation of the victims’ families and their witnesses is crucial. Unless they come forward and testify, it would be extremely difficult for our investigating agencies to build up cases against erring law enforcers,” he added.
However, Guevarra clarified that families of victims are free to file their complaints directly with the DOJ or the Ombudsman without waiting for the results of the panel review.
“The DOJ will provide witness protection, if deemed necessary,” he said.
He added that the panel is ready to seek out witnesses once it is established that there is sufficient ground to proceed to a criminal investigation in any of the cases under review by the panel.