HK-based human rights group watch spurns PNP’s definition of ‘solved’ cases

"Suspects not arrested? No matter, it is solved. Investigation flawed? No matter, it is solved. Requests of victim's family for more inquiries unanswered? No matter, it is solved. Witnesses got no protection? No matter… Once the case is with the prosecutor, they reason, their job is done. What happens after that is someone else's business,” lamented the Hong Kong-based human rights group that monitors and lobbies human rights issues in Asia.

This approach “has serious implications for victims of the relentless extrajudicial killings and other grave abuses of human rights going on in the Philippines,” AHRC said.

The group cited the case of slain activist-couple George and Maricel Vigo, who were killed on June 19 in Kidapawan City.

A special unit was set up to probe the twin killings and it promptly identified and filed charges against the alleged perpetrators.

“Despite deep dissatisfaction with its findings among the victims' relatives, the unit is reportedly refusing to make further inquiries. It also apparently could not care less about the grave security threats to witnesses and family members. Case solved,” said the AHRC in its July 21 statement.

When labor leader Gerardo Cristobal survived an attack on April 28, allegedly by policemen attached to Imus Police Station in Cavite, he was himself charged with frustrated murder by police investigators on the same day

Those who filed charges against him are subordinates of those who have been
accused of attacking him.

“There has been no impartial investigation to look into the alleged attempt
on Cristobal's life. He has been charged; case solved,” the group said.

The group also cited the killing of a soldier during a February 10 raid at a
military detachment in Cabite, Mankayan in Benguet. The police subsequently
filed robbery with homicide charges against 11 persons whom they arrested
and allegedly tortured in Buguias two days later.

Although the court ruled that the arrest was illegal, the police insisted on
filing the case.

“Again, there has been no impartial and independent investigation into the
torture allegations in this "solved" case,” said the AHRC.

For AHRC and other human rights groups all over the world, solving cases is
all about performance efficiency.

“No doubt it suits the purposes of the PNP to lower the bar for what qualifies as a solved case because it gives a better impression of its supposed efficiency. Unfortunately, the reality is the opposite,” it said.

The ARHC explained that while it is true that police authority is limited to conducting investigations and filing charges in court, efficiency rests on the outcomes of those cases: whether the real perpetrators are charged; whether the investigation has been done properly; whether the case stands up in court; whether the witnesses and relatives of a victim are free from threats and attacks.

“By any of these measures, the work of the PNP is a dismal failure and ‘solved’ cases are few. The effect of encouraging police to ‘solve’ cases simply by getting them into court is in fact to encourage them to rush inquiries, torture innocent persons, neglect the needs and protests of concerned persons and ignore all the consequences,” it added.

The AHRC insisted that the duty of the police does not end with the filing of a case with a Prosecutor, but “it ends only when justice has been duly served. It involves sincerity in dealings with the victims and their families. The filing of charges is merely one step in the lengthy criminal justice process: a process that is established in order to safely determine guilt and measure punishment.”

Unfortunately, it said, in the Philippines, this is a little understood notion among the country's police.

The AHRC called on the PNP to do away with the notion that cases are solved when they are filed in court and to recognize their responsibilities to witnesses and families of the victims of extra-judicial killings.

It also urged the Philippine government to act on the relentless murders of community and peasant leaders, journalists, human rights defenders, clergy and other victims.

“Ending the killings is a matter of policy. If the government decides to act, if the police decide to play their role responsibly rather than fraudulently, then it can be done. If not it will be subject to growing international censure over its inaction, and growing suspicions that it has no interest in protecting the lives of its citizens,” it concluded. (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)