Aguirre orders NBI to intensify probe on killings vs illegal drugs

MANILA-- Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has issued a department order directing the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate killings allegedly related to the government's intensified drive against those involved in the illegal drugs trade.

The NBI is hereby directed to conduct a thorough investigation of reported killings allegedly related to the campaign against illegal drugs except those cases already covered by Administrative Order No. 35 dated November 12, 2012 and Administrative Order No.1 dated October 11, 2016," said Aguirre said in Department Order No. 120 addressed to NBI Director Dante Gierran.

Aguirre also directed the NBI to submit a periodic inventory with status report of all cases it is investigating.

On Monday, DOJ Undersecretary Reynante Orceo said that number of cases of extrajudicial killings are now undergoing trial in various courts.

"The government has an Inter-Agency Committee created under Administrative Order (AO) 35 that works to resolve cases of enforced disappearances, torture, and other grave violations of the right to life, liberty, and security of persons. By domestic definitions, extra judicial killings applies only to victims belonging to any cause oriented groups or to those individual that advocate for similar cause," Orceo said during his presentation to the United Nations body conducting a review of the country's human rights situation.

The inter-agency is composed of the DOJ, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of National Defense (DND), Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), and the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs.

It is tasked to resolve cases of enforced disappearances, torture and other grave violations of the right to life, liberty and security of persons.

Orceo, who is part of the country's delegation who went to the UN, said in his report that 1,089 incidents had undergone validation by an inter-agency created under Administrative Order 35.

Since its creation in 2012, the committee has processed 1,098 incidents for validation while 30 cases are currently undergoing trial, Orceo said in his report though he did not mention the nature of these EJK cases.

He explained to the body that by domestic definitions, extrajudicial killings applies only to victims belonging to any cause oriented groups or to those individual that advocate for similar causes.

"Hence, any crimes committed outside of these definitions are not included, and therefore, treated as regular crimes and prosecuted accordingly, Orceo added.

Orceo said the mechanism pursues regular case conferences and trainings for those involved in investigation and prosecution.

He assured the UN body that the Philippine government is doing everything to address the problem of human trafficking, adding that the inter-agency committee has even expanded the coverage by including involuntary servitude.

As of August 2016, there have been a total of 243 convictions involving 272 persons found guilty of trafficking. Its success earned for the Philippines a Tier 1 ranking by the United States State Department, the highest compliance level, in June 2016, Orceo said in his report.

He added that as a sign of its commitment to the global fight against human trafficking, the government has ratified the ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons as well as the Child Protection Compact partnership with the United States.

The official said the government would also continue to search for ways to further improve the witness protection program as part of the overall anti-criminality campaign.

The government's Witness Protection, Security and Benefit program continues to be availed by individuals in accordance with certain requirements, all aimed at ensuring the security and safety of witnesses to crimes. All of these that I have mentioned are reflective of an effective and functioning criminal justice system in the Philippines that covers law enforcement, prosecution, corrections, legal assistance and judiciary. The system is accessible to everyone, the DOJ official added.

Meanwhile, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano who led the Philippine delegation to the UN body in Geneva, Switzerland and is the incoming Foreign Affairs Secretary, said there had been no new wave of killings prompted by the Philippines' war on drugs, and reports to the contrary were alternative facts."

He also called out the Commission on Human Rights and critics of the Duterte administration, including the local media, saying they give the world an impression that unexplained killings under the intensified anti-drug war is state-sponsored.

Source: Philippines News Agency