Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Tuesday said they will “play it by ear’ the concerns raised by President Duterte about disclosing matters of national security when accessing the drug war records of the Philippine National Police for the review of the Department of Justice.
Guevarra stressed that President Duterte’s statement did not mean that the department does not disclose the documents due to national security concerns involved.
On Monday, Duterte stated that the government cannot release all records from the controversial anti-drug war for scrutiny since it would compromise national security.
“I actually did not hear it exactly how he said it but my understanding of what the President has been meaning is, in the light on the ongoing cooperation between the DOJ and the PNP, a proper concern should be given to security matters. In other words, not necessarily related to the review of these case files, it is not necessarily the one that the President is referring to,” Guevarra said in an online press briefing with Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano and Philippine National Police Chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar after the signing of the joint memorandum circular on violations of health quarantine protocols amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As far as I’m concerned these are criminal matters, more of a criminal nature than a national security concern. So, I suppose that the President really meant that in the general cooperation between the PNP and the DOJ, concerns about national security should be properly addressed.
We must be very careful,” he added.
Citing the 2018 Supreme Court resolution penned by then Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio ordering the government to yield its records on deaths related to the drug war amid the petitions against the constitutionality of the “Oplan Tokhang,” Guevarra said they will just make it a point to be more careful as they examine the drug war records if it involves national security.
“Yes, there was a SC declaration already but we will play it by ear. We will be more careful when the DOJ and the PNP examine all these records. Make it a point to determine if there are national security concerns involved in each case, and if there is none, then we will do so in accordance with our mandate. But we will take note of the President’s concerns as we examine each and every case,” Guevarra stressed.
When asked if Duterte’s statement would affect sharing of the PNP records to the Commission on Human Rights, Guevarra said they have yet to sit down with the latter to discuss information sharing. Rey Requejo
As of now, Guevarra said the PNP has yet to transmit the 61 cases it earlier promised to the DOJ.
He said that when the case files arrived, the DOJ would examine the circumstances surrounding the incidents covered by the 61 cases and determine also, if based on the circumstances, there is criminal liability on the part of the police officers involved.
Though Guevarra said the 61 cases is a small part of the cases, it could be a good starting point for the DOJ to review and gather more evidence not necessarily from the case files but from the outside such as by talking to relatives of the victims. Rey Requejo