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Media Follow Up Derailed | CMFR

Media Follow Up Derailed


Screengrab from CNNPhilippines.com.


THE NARRATIVE has moved from just the count of casualties and numbers killed. Media have gone into the lives of victims, humanizing the cases listed in police reports. Reports have also recorded the protest of church and civil society leaders, and individuals calling for an end to the violence.

The drug war continues to be a staple of news. Police records show that as of January 17, a total of 6,299 have been killed since July 1, 2016 (“IN NUMBERS: The Philippines’ ‘war on drugs,’“). There were 2,250  victims of police operations, the rest were killed by other groups, including vigilantes.

President Duterte’s war on drugs has gained worldwide attention. A statement concerning the violation of human rights made by a US State Department official provoked Duterte to spew expletives against President Barack Obama. Then UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon received the same treatment for expressing the same concern. The European Union (EU), the International Criminal Court (ICC), the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights has joined the critical chorus. Human Rights Watch (HRW), a global NGO, pointed out that the president’s statements “implicitly” supports “unlawful brutality.”

But to a man, Duterte officials remain unfazed. President Duterte has staunchly held his ground, saying repeatedly that he will continue to do what is necessary to save the country from the menace of drugs.

As the media continues its coverage, news organizations have varied in focus, depth and zeal in reporting the scope of the killings

CMFR has cheered news efforts to keep the drug war on the media radar. The president hardly speaks without some reference to his determination to wipe out drug dealers and drug addicts. But neither government nor media have been able to do the necessary follow up on police cases under investigation.

In a Reuters report, PNP Chief Ronald Dela Rosa was quoted saying that “all operational deaths are investigated by the Internal Affairs Service.” (“Police rack up an almost perfectly deadly record in the Philippine drug war”)

However, the PNP has not made known any of their findings and nothing has come out of the media about these cases. The same goes for so-called vigilante killings.

There are several agencies given the mandate to investigate the killings including the officers involved:

  • Department of Justice
  • Department of Interior and Local Government which organizes the PNP
  • National Police Commission which has administrative control over the police
  • PNP’s Internal Affairs Service which investigates infractions of regulations committed by the members of the PNP
  • PNP’s Human Rights Affairs Office which supervises the implementation of the guidelines and policies on human rights laws
  • Office of the Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices
  • Commission on Human Rights

These agencies have not figured in the media’s reporting on victims of police operations.

The narrative may have moved forward, but it has stalled on this critical point. If the investigations have not come up with findings, the slow pace deserves to be examined by the media.If the police fail to provide answers to media questions about cases, the pattern should be noted in the news. Questions should inquire into the method of investigation to determine if the police were remiss in the performance of their duty.

Recently, The Philippine Star published “QCPD recovers 29 guns with the same serial numbers,” revealing that 29 of the 300 seized guns in anti-drug operations have identical serial numbers. This recent finding should provoke other media investigations.

The failure of the various agencies to look into the EJKs adds to the “human rights calamity” represented in the number of victims of the drug war. Media’s failure to report this aspect of the drug policy would make them part of the strategy which relies on popular support, with the public accepting without question the wisdom or necessity of the violent option.