Now that the Justice Secretary himself admitted to police work lapses in drug cases, the Human Rights Watch International dared the Philippine government to lift its barriers and let international probers into the country to look at alleged human rights violations related to the extra-judicial killings in the bloody war on illegal drugs.

“Our hope for accountability in the Philippine system is very, very low. That is why we are calling for an independent and impartial investigation by the international community such as the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). That, I believe, is the real test if we will get to the bottom of this,” said Human Rights Watch-Asia Division Deputy Director Phil Robertson.

Apart from UNHRC, the International Criminal Court (ICC) also seeks to send a team to investigate the killings but the Duterte administration refuses to cooperate.

“We need to create something international that’s got real legs. That is why we are calling for an international and impartial investigation done by rapporteurs selected by the UNHRC that will create record of what happened and create the dynamic for accountability,” Robertson said.

In a report to the UN, Justice Sec. Menardo Guevarra admitted that in many drug cases, the police involved failed to follow protocols.  In other words, the rule of law was not observed in these cases.

The Department of Justice vowed to continue reviewing the government’s war on drugs.

“What we have thus far is an initial report. And we intend to continue the review of cases involving anti-illegal drug operations where deaths occurred. We intend to come out with further findings and recommendations,” DOJ Undersec. Adrian Sugay said.

Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana said a technical working group (TWG) was formed to look into Guevarra’s report. The group will probe essential issues and is expected to submit its report with recommendations on the first week of March.

Robertson noted efforts to get the UNHRC off the government’s back but if left to domestic mechanisms, justice would elude victims due to lack of transparency.

Local human rights advocates however slammed Guevarra for “grandstanding” by only reporting the failure of police to follow protocols in anti-drug operations that killed tens of thousands of accused drug addicts.

“Although we couldn’t agree more with the Justice secretary that the police do not follow protocols in executing the bloody war on drugs, Mr. Guevarra has failed to mention that the Justice department is all but an enabler of the widely criticized war, as it failed to hold the abusive authorities to account,” said Pamalakaya Chairman Fernando Hicap.

“Guevarra’s report to the UNHRC was nothing but an attempt to absolve the Justice department on the mass murder of innocent lives. He didn’t mention that the impunity has tolerated the perpetrators to trample on the rule of law and deprive ordinary Filipinos of the right to due process,” Hicap said.