MANILA, Philippines — Human rights watchdogs welcomed developments in the Philippine National Police under the helm of the recently-installed chief, Police Gen. Guillermo Eleazar but challenged the new top cop to ensure that these reforms will be sustained.
Commission on Human Rights spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia on Wednesday said the PNP’s move to open 61 cases under the Internal Affairs Services to the Department of Justice for review is a “step towards the right direction.”
Guevarra earlier this week said the DOJ, which leads a review of deadly “drug war” operations, finally gained access to 61 cases where the PNP’s IAS found administrative/criminal liability on the part of law enforcement agents. This was after Guevarra and Eleazar met at the department last week where the
Guevarra said this is the first time his department can access these crucial cases, and the police chief vowed cooperation in review of deadly “drug war” operations.
De Guia reiterated that the CHR, which has also been investigating the bloody “drug war,” has repeatedly called on the government to be transparent in these cases.
She added: “We hope that 61 cases is just a beginning and we look forward to more cases being investigated. We underscore the importance of the PNP in maintaining a cooperative stance.”
HRW Senior Asia Researcher Carlos Conde also welcomed the move to open to scrutiny 61 cases under the IAS. He also noted, in a separate statement, that Eleazar deemed the case of slain transgender man Ebeng Mayor as “resolved,” and not “closed” or “solved”— a departure from previous police statements where incidents are deemed “closed” or “solved” once the suspects have merely been identified.
“These are hopeful developments are all to the credit of Eleazar, a well-regarded police official. So far, he’s been saying all the right things, even promising to rid the PNP of ‘scalawags.’ But are the reforms he has promised achievable and sustainable? That’s not clear,” Conde said.
He pointed out that the PNP “rarely displays this type of openness,” as Conde recalled that the police had helped stonewall investigations into drug war operations. Eleazar, who formerly led Metro Manila police, was also a “key enforcer” of the “drug war.”
But Eleazar, too, has only five months left before he retires from the PNP, Conde said.
“If Eleazar is serious about these reforms, he should ensure the police’s full cooperation with the investigators into the ‘drug war’ killings and take more concrete steps to hold abusive officers accountable,” he added.
The CHR, for its part, said it is looking forward to more engagements with the government. “Clearly, our police force has a mandate to investigate and pursue cases violating the people's right to life among others. And, in the larger view, the government is charged with the obligation to uphold and protect the rights of everyone,” De Guia said.
“As conscience of the government and the country's independent national human rights institution, CHR also looks forward to more meaningful and constructive engagements with the government in pursuit of truth and justice for every case of human rights violation,” she added. — Kristine Joy Patag