GOVERNMENT prosecutors have endorsed the indictment of three agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and four police officers over the botched buy-bust operations in Quezon City last year, where four law enforcers were killed.

In a statement dated May 17 and sent to reporters on Thursday, the Department of Justice (DoJ) said the agents would be charged with homicide for the death of a police officer. The police officers would face direct assault charges for mauling several PDEA agents.

On Feb. 24, last year, PDEA and the police separately held buy-bust operations along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City when a shootout between law enforcers took place. Two policemen, a PDEA agent and an informant died.

“After an evaluation of the evidence, the panel of prosecutors found sufficient evidence to charge [the PDEA agents] with homicide for the death of a police officer,” DoJ said in the statement. “There is also probable cause to charge some police officers for direct assault due to the injuries sustained by the PDEA responders.”

Prosecutors also dismissed two homicide complaints for the death of another cop and a PDEA agent for lack of evidence.

Philippine prosecutors have filed charges in court against law enforcers in four cases and plan to probe 250 more of what could have been wrongful deaths in Mr. Duterte’s drug war, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra told the United Nations Human Rights Council in February.

An inter-agency committee formed 15 teams last year that probed extralegal killings and human rights violations involving the government’s anti-illegal drug operations.

The Justice department on Tuesday dropped 29 cases from its list of extralegal killings and torture cases for lack of evidence.

The cases involved witnesses that could not be found or complainants who decided not to pursue their complaints, Mr. Guevarra told reporters in a Viber message.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) scored the Duterte government for encouraging a culture of impunity by hindering independent inquiries and failing to prosecute erring cops involved in the deadly drug war.

Internal investigations of anti-drug operations that led to deaths have been “inaccessible and nontransparent,” it said in a 48-page report.

Survivors of Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs found it difficult to pursue justice despite overwhelming evidence because the state refused to cooperate with independent probers, the human rights body said.

Police have “refused, denied or ignored” subpoenas and requests from the commission to review police documents even if they followed guidelines to obtain the information, according to the report.

“Independent and impartial accountability mechanisms, such as the fact-finding investigations by the CHR, have been hampered by the predilection and uncooperativeness of agencies involved in the campaign against illegal drugs.”

Authorities have cited a 2017 order from Mr. Duterte “not to participate in any investigation into alleged human rights violations committed by its agents without his clearance,” the agency said.

The CHR report presented 882 drug-related cases involving 1,139 victims, or 23% of the 3,790 drug-related killings examined by the commission from 2016 to 2021. Of the total, 2,305 investigations were finished.

Police had used “excessive and disproportionate force” in most of the drug raids, contrary to their self-defense claims, it said. It added that 73% of  511 victims who had allegedly resisted arrest were killed by gunshots to the head and torso.

These indicated “intent to kill by the police operatives and disproportionality of force used to repel aggression,” CHR said.

It urged police to conduct “full, immediate, transparent and impartial investigations on drug-related extra-judicial killings.”

The Justice department should also investigate the cases related to the deadly drug war through the National Bureau of Investigation and “prosecute persons charged with the commission of these extrajudicial killings through the National Prosecution Service.”

The agency said DoJ should also regularly and automatically furnish the human rights body with “complete and comprehensive reports” on the cases.

The latest report was among the last CHR assessments on the Duterte government’s war on drugs. The terms of the agency’s head and four other commissioners ended on May 5. — John Victor D. Ordoñez and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza