Resumption of ICC probe on Duterte's drug war 'not surprising', says expert


Posted at Jan 27 2023 11:08 AM | Updated as of Jan 27 2023 11:15 AM

President Rodrigo Duterte presides over the 54th Cabinet meeting at the Malacañan Palace on May 30, 2022. Alberto Alcain, Presidential Photo/File
President Rodrigo Duterte presides over the 54th Cabinet meeting at the Malacañan Palace on May 30, 2022. Alberto Alcain, Presidential Photo/File

MANILA — A human rights lawyer said Friday he was not surprised that the International Criminal Court had authorized the resumption of its inquiry into former President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan asked the Hague-based tribunal to restart the inquiry last year, saying the Philippine government did not demonstrate it investigated or was investigating crimes within the jurisdiction of the war crimes court.

"This is not a surprising outcome," Ruben Carranza, senior expert of New York-based International Center for Transitional Justice, told ANC's "Rundown".

"The efforts of the Philippines to justify deferral are clearly, you don't even have to practice at the ICC to know that these were simply just waste of delaying the outcome, which is only to proceed with the investigation.

"This is not a trial but this is a significant outcome because it removes that barrier," he added.

Duterte pulled the Philippines out of the Hague-based tribunal in 2019 after it began a preliminary probe into the drug crackdown, followed by the launch of a formal inquiry later that year.

But the probe was suspended in November 2019 after Manila said it was re-examining several hundred cases of drug operations that led to deaths at the hands of police, hitmen and vigilantes.

Officially, 6,181 people were killed in Duterte's "war on drugs" but rights group say that up to 30,000 may have been killed, some innocent victims, and that corruption was rife among security forces that acted with impunity.

Watch more News on iWantTFC

Lawyer Ray Santiago, co-chair of Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court, said the government must cooperate with the ICC despite withdrawing from the court. 

The Philippines was a party to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC.

"The best way for the Philippine government is it's either to support the process of the ICC or if it wants to stop the proceedings then to follow what the ICC is saying that you should really conduct honest to goodness investigations as to the thousands of deaths related to the drug war here in the Philippines," he said.

In a statement Thursday, the ICC said its pre-trial chamber "is not satisfied that the Philippines is undertaking relevant investigations that would warrant a deferral of the court's investigations".

"The various domestic initiatives and proceedings, assessed collectively, do not amount to tangible, concrete and progressive investigative steps," it added.

Duterte's successor, President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. has vowed to continue the drug war but with a focus on prevention and rehabilitation, though so far he has ruled out rejoining the ICC.

In November, a Philippine police officer was jailed for planting evidence and torturing 2 teenagers killed at the height of Duterte's drug war, a rare conviction of an enforcer of the crackdown.

— With report from Agence France-Presse; Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News