Limited coordination

By Editorial September 11,2017

Exactly how the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) will coordinate with each other in the war against illegal drugs is up for speculation and debate between supporters and critics.

Chief Supt. Jose Mario Espino, Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 chief, said their office will coordinate with the regional CHR if said agency wishes to investigate any instances of abuses committed in the war on drugs.

This early, however, Espino made it very clear that the coordination will consist of dialogues, talking and nothing more. Case folders are off-limits as talked about in the past few days when President Rodrigo Duterte issued the prohibition.

Without the case folders, the CHR has little to go on except for any witness accounts and likely the forensic expertise of an independent agency, like the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO).

It was the forensic experts of PAO who raised the possibility of Kian Loyd delos Santos, Carl Gabriel Arnaiz and Reynaldo de Guzman being executed by the Caloocan City police through a reenactment of the actual shootings based on available forensic evidence.

We wonder if that same forensic expertise similar to the US Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) is available at the local level. We hope it is if the CHR is to gain any headway into investigating possible cases of rubouts or outright execution of drug suspects.

As far as shootouts with drug suspects in Cebu are concerned, there is no security camera footage nor eyewitness accounts that can be availed of to prove that the encounters are outright executions.

In the absence of such evidence, one can only assume there is regularity in these anti-drug operations that wind up with the suspects dead. But that doesn’t ensure there are no abuses whatsoever.

And even if police are equipped with body cameras to monitor their movement, what’s to stop them from turning it off and on when it suits their purpose?

To their credit, the PNP had publicly acknowledged and expressed willingness to cooperate, but based on the President’s order, such cooperation can only go so far which belies the administration’s claim of transparency in its activities.

Again, we wonder if national security can be invoked as justification for the President’s order to the PNP to withdraw the case folders from the CHR’s perusal. Is the public’s safety at risk with such withdrawal of information on the anti-drug operations?

And with little to zero budget from Congress, despite a constitutional provision ensuring the CHR’s independence and support from the national government to act as its watchdog and a safeguard against the abuses of its military and police, the CHR will have to lean heavily on other agencies like the PAO to pursue its investigation on the killings of drug suspects.

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