DOJ's Drug War Probe Tests 'Nanlaban' Defense of the Police

Thousands more cases up for review.

The Department of Justice said it would review thousands of killings in President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs, after releasing details of a first batch of cases that it said pointed to abuses by police.

The DOJ released details on Wednesday of 52 killings by police in the five-year-old campaign that challenges the official narrative of the Philippine National Police, that all of the thousands of victims were drug dealers who had resisted arrest or in Filipino, nanlaban

The Philippines has come under pressure from the United Nations to investigate allegations of systematic murders of drug suspects, and the International Criminal Court recently said it would investigate Duterte's bloody campaign.

READ: Duterte Says He's Working on ICC Defense for Alleged Crimes Against Humanity

Asked by Reuters if the Philippines would expand its investigation into the war on drugs, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said: "Time and resources permitting, the DOJ will review these thousands of other cases, too."

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The release of details marks a rare admission by the state that abuses may have taken place in the anti-drugs campaign.

U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet had urged the Philippines this month to publicize its findings on the 52 cases so its work can be evaluated.

In several cases the DOJ probed, those killed had no traces of gunpowder on their hands, or did not have a gun at all, the department said on Wednesday.

It also said police had used excessive force, shot suspects at close range, and relevant medical and police records were missing. The cases would undergo further investigation and case buildup for possible filing of criminal charges against the officers, it said.

Officially, police have killed more than 6,000 people in the crackdown, but activists say many thousands more users were killed, execution-style, by mysterious gunmen. Police have denied involvement in those deaths.


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