DOJ-led drug war panel submits initial report to Duterte

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 11) - The Department of Justice-led interagency panel has submitted its initial report on the bloody war on drugs to President Rodrigo Duterte.

"The initial report dated 29 Dec. 2020 has just been submitted to the Office of the President. Let's give him time to pore over it," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said in a message to reporters on Monday.

Guevarra told the UN Human Rights Council in June last year the DOJ chairs an interagency panel that looks into the thousands of anti-illegal drug operations by Philippine authorities that resulted in deaths.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet last year said there were "serious human rights violations" in the conduct of the government's drug war.

As of Nov. 30 last year, data from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency showed 5,980 individuals died in more than 185,000 anti-illegal drug operations since 2016.

Guevarra also told the council last year the drug war panel will engage the Commission on Human Rights as an independent monitoring body.

However, CHR commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit said the agency was not included in the initial review of the drug war deaths.

"We consider the government's action as a step towards ensuring accountability and addressing impunity. However, we regret that the Commission on Human Rights was not involved in the review, contrary to the commitments and assurances made by the government during the 44th Session of the Human Rights Council," she said in a statement.

"This is an unfulfilled promise to Filipinos and the entire community of nations," she added.

Gomez-Dumpit noted that the CHR has repeatedly asked the DOJ-led panel regarding its role.

"Despite persistent challenges, the Commission has never closed its doors to opportunities for cooperation with government," she said. "We have respectfully, diligently, consistently, and repeatedly asked the Department of Justice concerning the role of the Commission on Human Rights in the said panel."

On the other hand, Guevarra said the DOJ would still want the CHR's participation in the full report of the panel.

"We intend to engage with the CHR in this endeavor. As I said, the initial report is only a partial one," he said.

"Our efforts have been severely hampered by current restrictions on mobility and physical access to records. Much collaborative work remains to be done," he added.