DOJ gathers information on Duterte’s war on drugs

MANILA, Philippines — The Justice Department is gathering information about former President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war campaign after the International Criminal Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber asked the Philippine government to comment on ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan’s request for a retrial, DOJ Secretary Jesus Crispin said Remulla.

“We are busy collecting data and findings from the Drug War investigations,” Remulla told reporters in a Viber message yesterday when asked about the Justice Department’s handling of the ICC’s request for the government to commit to a possible reopening of the investigation to comment on Duterte’s drug war.

Remulla added that they will also meet with the State Department to discuss the matter.

But he said in a recent interview that the Philippines cannot be the subject of the ICC’s investigation into Duterte’s alleged drug war killings because the country is no longer a member of the Criminal Court, having officially left the tribunal in March 2019.

“Firstly, we are no longer a member of the ICC. We have canceled our membership. That’s probably one thing we’ll bring up in the discussion, because if they enter our country, what will their reason be if we’re no longer part of the International Criminal Court?” he said in a Filipino TV interview.

If the Philippines becomes an ICC member again, Remulla said they would have to consider it carefully, stressing that he didn’t yet know what the policy would be but that they were sure to strengthen the country’s judicial system.

“Why do other people have to rule or criticize what we do? Don’t we have our own system to enforce our laws? Therefore I will not involve the ICC in the initial talks because we are not a member,” he added.

The ICC recently asked the Philippine government to provide “additional observations” by September 8, 2022, after Khan’s request to reopen investigations into Duterte’s war on drugs, which has killed more than 6,000 people in six years. It also invited victims of the Drug War and their lawyers to observe the proceedings.

conviction rate

Interior Minister Benhur Abalos, meanwhile, is urging local government units (LGUs) to implement strategies to avoid technical problems and improve the country’s criminal conviction rate.

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) said Abalos will reach out to the League of Cities of the Philippines, made up of mayors from cities and towns across the country, to help resolve the issue.

Abalos said LGUs can be creative and imaginative when it comes to supporting the country’s criminal justice system.

Previously, the DOJ said the conviction rate for drug cases is a meager 21 percent of the 291,393 total cases filed since 2016.

He pointed out that formalities related to mandatory witnesses have impeded sentencing in drug cases and could be addressed by LGUs.

“So if you look at the cases in the inventory, many are being released because of a lack of witnesses. If we wait for the law to change, it will take time,” he said in mixed English and Filipino.

The former mayor of Mandaluyong said that while he was at City Hall, they assigned an employee to serve as a witness in drug raids.

“I’m going to ask the mayors and also other officials that maybe they can do this to help in these cases because most of them get laid off… This is just one case where the law created is a bit difficult but we have to have one.” Find a way (to implement it),” he added.

The DILG boss has already ordered the retraining of over 22,000 police investigators to improve their skills and abilities and improve conviction rates.

“Police investigations serve as a critical component in law enforcement, as this single act determines whether or not the case is dismissed. It is important that our police investigators are familiar with criminal law and criminal procedure so that they can conduct an effective and efficient investigation,” Abalos said.

He pointed out that part of the DILG and DOJ’s plan to improve the justice system is for law enforcement and prosecutors to work together to minimize crime.

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) has promised to work with government agencies to improve its conviction rate of criminals apprehended in law enforcement operations.

The PNP officer in charge, Lt. Gen. Vicente Danao, said yesterday he welcomed the support from the DOJ and DILG in resolving issues that continue to impede the resolution of cases.

“A key part of the career growth of our police officers is training them how to handle investigations and build strong cases. We are committed to improving in this aspect so that justice can be truly served,” Danao said in a statement.

Remulla, at a press conference on Thursday, underlined the need for police and prosecutors to work in harmony so that cases submitted at the prosecutor’s level are honored. – Romina Cabrera, Emmanuel Tupas

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