Palace: Duterte not remiss in investigating drug war killings

President Rodrigo Duterte | PNA Photo by Richard Madelo

PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo Duterte is “not remiss” in his obligation to investigate human rights abuses in the country, according to Malacañang.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Wednesday, October 20, made the statement after the Philippine Department of Justice (DOJ) released a 21-page information table on over 50 cases of deaths during police anti-drug operations.

“I can only commend the DOJ for this conclusion because this proves that the President has not been remiss in his obligation to investigate perpetrators of these crimes,” he said in an interview at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay news forum hosted by Marichu Villanueva.

According to Roque, the matrix belies “all claims” that Duterte is responsible for the killings.

“I think these findings of the DOJ will belie all claims that the President is responsible under the principle of command responsibility because on the contrary, it proves that the Philippine state has in fact investigated and prosecuted individuals for these extralegal killings,” he said.

Further, the matrix shows no evidence of the chief executive’s “culpability.”

“I don’t think it says anything about the culpability of the President because in the 52 cases there’s not been an instance where there’s been a determination that the President ordered the killing or that the President did not do anything to punish those who committed criminal acts,” said Roque.

On Tuesday, Oct. 19, the DOJ authorized the release of an information table concerning certain details of the 52 cases.

In its press statement, the agency said that the release of case details is for the purpose of informing the families and loved ones of the deceased suspects that the circumstances surrounding each incidence of death are undergoing a determination of possible criminal liabilities on the part of erring police officers.

The matrix was also part of the DOJ’s recognition of the importance of transparency in its review process.

52 cases

Of the cases that the DOJ reviewed, the majority were buy-bust operations that turned into shootouts after the subjects resisted arrest.

However, the agency noted some glaring lapses in the police reports about the conditions surrounding the suspects’ deaths.

In the case of suspect Ryan Robosa, who was killed in a shootout during a December 2016 buy-bust operation in Taguig, the DOJ said that the police records do not support that narrative.

“There are no pre-operation report, coordination form, chain of custody form, ballistics or paraffin test result, or autopsy result on record,” it said.

Officers involved who were “found guilty of grave irregularity in the performance of duty” were only given a reprimand.

In another case, police said they killed Anwar Sawadjaan, Noel Rey Bacalso, and Angelo Hofer at a checkpoint allegedly out of self-defense in July 2016, but the DOJ said that the medico legal report showed the victims appeared to have been shot at close range.

The cops were dismissed from service as a result.

The DOJ also highlighted one case that had a non-drug-related death. In December 2016, a victim who was allegedly of unsound mind was shot by the police in Laguna.

“At the time he was shot, the suspect did not appear to have posed any direct imminent danger to the police operative. The victim was not in possession of any deadly weapon or firearm,” noted the DOJ.

For this, the cops involved were only handed a 180-day suspension.

According to the DOJ, around 150 policemen were involved in the 52 cases. However, names were not released because of “due process considerations.”

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

Meanwhile, Philippine National Police Chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar welcomed the DOJ’s move to release the matrix, saying that it was “in the interest of truth, transparency and justice.”

He also urged the families of the victims to come forward and hold erring police officers accountable.

“Ito rin ang pagkakataon para sa mga pamilya ng nasawi sa police anti-illegal drug operation para sila’y makapagsumite ng complaint-affidavit o kaya’y magharap ng testigo upang maisampa ang kaukulang kasong kriminal sa korte (This is also the chance for the families of the individuals killed in the police anti-illegal drug operation to submit their complaint-affidavit or find a witness to file appropriate criminal cases in court),” said Eleazar. n

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at

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