MANILA – The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday released information on the initial batch of 52 cases it is reviewing as part of the government’s policy of transparency on the anti-illegal drugs campaign.

The matrix included docket numbers, names of deceased suspects, places and dates of the incidents and the review panel’s summary of observations on the cases.

Among the 52 cases, the most number of deaths in a single incident involved the operation in Liloy, Zamboanga del Norte on July 29, 2016 which resulted in the deaths of three persons.

According to the police version, the suspects on board a vehicle refused to stop at a checkpoint and opened fire on the officers.

The DOJ review panel noted that according to the medico-legal report, the victims appeared to have been shot at close range.

The Philippine National Police Internal Affairs Service (PNP-IAS) ordered the dismissal from the service of those involved.

The earliest case among the 52 involved a man who was killed in a shootout with police in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City in December 2016.

Based on the DOJ review, records of the case did not contain any detailed narration, no indication of death in the death certificate and no pre-operation report, coordination for, custody form, ballistics or paraffin test result nor autopsy result.

It resulted in a reprimand of the officers involved who were found guilty of grave irregularity in the performance of duty.

The most number of cases, at least 15, involved incidents in different areas in Laguna.

Earliest of the cases involved the death of a man in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on July 20, 2016.

According to the official police account, the suspect was accosted at a checkpoint for operating a motorcycle with license plates and on the way to the police station, the suspect tried to grab the firearm of one of the arresting officers prompting in the use of deadly force.

There is, however, no autopsy or death certificate on record and resulted in the exoneration for one of the police operatives and dismissal from the service of another.

Earlier, the DOJ said the disclosure was meant to assure the families and loved ones of the deceased that the suspects and the circumstances of each death are undergoing a determination of possible criminal liabilities on the part of police officers being undertaken by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

In the interest of truth

PNP chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar welcomed the DOJ decision to release the matrix of the cases, saying it is "in the interest of truth, transparency and justice."

Eleazar noted that since 2016, the campaign resulted in the confiscation of multi-billion peso worth of illegal drugs, the "neutralization" of key players in the illegal drugs trade and the dismantling of shabu laboratories in the country.

He added that the campaign also resulted in the "unprecedented" 64 percent decrease in index crime.

“Marami rin sa aming hanay ang nagbuwis ng buhay sa mga operasyong ito kaya nararapat lamang na mabigyan din sila ng hustisya sa mga maling paratang tungkol dito. At huwag din nating kakalimutan ang mga sakripisyo ng inyong kapulisan na nagresulta sa pagkakakumpiska ng bilyong-bilyong halaga ng mga iligal na droga (Many of our fellow police have died in the line of duty during operations. It is but proper to give them justice on the wrong notions about this. Let's not forget the sacrifices of our police officers that resulted in the confiscation of billions worth of illegal drugs),” Eleazar said.

Eleazar also urged the victims to cooperate in holding policemen who committed abuses accountable for their action.

"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. Tinitiyak ko ang buong pakikipagtulungan ng PNP sa NBI. Walang mangyayaring takipan at ating pananagutin ang may dapat panagutan (This is your chance, the families of those who died from the anti-illegal drug operations to submit a complaint-affidavit or face the witnesses so that they can file criminal cases before the courts. I assure you, those found guilty will be held liable),” he said.

The NBI is set to conduct case buildup for the possible filing of criminal charges against erring police officers. The PNP and the NBI will ink a memorandum of agreement to jointly investigate drug war deaths. (PNA)