The ‘nanlaban’ formula for murder

Posted by watchmen
June 24, 2024


By Ade Fajardo

Kabataan party-list’s Representative Raoul Manuel chided former Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea for chuckling at the prospect of the House of Representatives summoning his boss Rodrigo Duterte to shed light on the thousands of drug war deaths during his term.

“If they are so proud of their own numbers that they killed 20,000 civilians in just two years, then why is it ludicrous for them to explain that,” Manuel asked during the hearing conducted last week by the House committee on human rights.


The figures did not come from thin air. Chel Diokno of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) cited no less than a Supreme Court resolution in 2018 that expressed bewilderment over an official report providing the number of fatalities for the period of July 2016 up to November 2017.

In this short period, almost 4,000 people were killed in the course of police operations while more than 16,000 were liquidated by riding-in-tandem assassins or masked vigilantes.

This translates to more than 20,000 bereaved families crying for justice yet the Department of Justice could only prompt the investigation of 52 cases.


Investigation, prosecution, conviction. A miniscule proportion is actually getting attention from our criminal justice system.

The DOJ has barely scratched the surface of the war on drugs yet the government made a series of formal objections to the investigation undertaken by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

The ICC has brushed these objections aside because local investigations do not mirror the breadth and scale of investigations necessary to address crimes against humanity.


Can this belated House investigation in aid of legislation accomplish anything substantial?

Is the DOJ investigating Duterte and the former top officials of the Philippine National Police?

If at all, these hearings have exposed how government has paid lip service to human rights. The ICC is compelled to commence prosecution to complement domestic jurisdiction that was never exercised.


In that period, 4,000 purported drug personalities resisted government process and pulled out guns to fight back — the clichéd “nanlaban” narrative appended to post-op reports of police operatives.

The usual buy-bust police affidavit goes like this: “The undercover policeman poses as the buyer who then gives the go-ahead signal by dropping his cellphone, when the suspect detects that he is dealing with the police. Sensing danger, the suspect draws out and fires his gun so the surrounding operatives are left with no choice but to fire back in defense.”

A handgun is then found near the body of the “suspect.”


In this contrived scenario, two crimes are committed: Murder under the Revised Penal Code and Planting of Evidence under Republic Act No. 01951 or the Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act.

On top of these crimes, the government has the duty to investigate and prosecute “crimes against humanity,” which is punished locally since 2009. Republic Act 9851 contains a similar definition as that provided for in the Rome Statute.

This prosecution can be done at least with respect to crimes committed from 2019 onwards when the Philippine ICC withdrawal became effective./WDJ

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