MANILA — The Philippines has a functioning justice system and is capable of conducting its own investigation, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said Saturday, in response to the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision to resume its inquiry into the brutal drug war of the Duterte administration.
In a media forum, DOJ spokesperson Mico Clavano said the ICC should let the Philippines resolve through its internal mechanisms the issues related to the deadly anti-narcotics campaign of former President Rodrigo Duterte.
“We are doing a genuine investigation on the killings from 2016 up to 2019 or even up to the end, 2022. If there’s a working justice system, then the ICC cannot come in and supplant or substitute our working justice system with their own, dahil gumagana naman,” Clavano said.
“So in international law, when that happens, they can only complement iyong ating investigation, and they cannot substitute,” he added.
The Justice assistant secretary said that the situation of the Philippines is not comparable to those of Uganda, Congo, and Sudan — countries which were previously investigated by the ICC.
“If we accept the decision of the ICC, it is as if we are admitting that we are on the same level as those countries – wala talagang gobyerno, nagkakagulo talaga doon,” Clavano said.
“But here, we’re saying that we have an organized – although we have limitations, we have some challenges that we have to overcome – we have a working justice system. Kaya po iyon iyong naging stand ng gobyerno ngayon.”
The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber on Jan. 26 said it has approved ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan’s request to continue its probe, since Manila’s efforts to investigate and prosecute the alleged crimes against humanity in the Philippines were not satisfactory.
Duterte pulled the Philippines out of the ICC in 2019 after the Hague-based court began a preliminary investigation into the drug crackdown, followed by the launch of a formal inquiry later that year.
But the probe was suspended in November 2019 after the Philippine government said it was re-examining several hundred cases of drug operations that led to deaths at the hands of police, hitmen, and vigilantes.
Khan, in asking the tribunal to restart its inquiry last year, said the Philippines failed to substantiate its claim that its justice system “generally functions well” and that administrative proceedings “may or can” result in criminal proceedings.
The DOJ insisted otherwise, as it addressed the ICC and Khan on Saturday.
"Give us time to conduct our own investigation, and on the basis of the complementarity principle, to respect our sovereignty, and to respect our judicial system here in the Philippines,” Clavano said.
According the Philippine National Police, 6,181 people were killed under Duterte’s drug war 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.
The Commission on Human Rights said the ICC investigation "is an opportune occasion for the present government to take the right track in upholding its human rights obligations, especially for those wronged and violated."
"In the interest of justice and accountability, CHR urges the Government of the Philippines to view the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber decision as an opportunity to fulfil President Ferdinand Marcos Jr's earlier commitment in ensuring a "high-level of accountability" for human issues and violations during his term," it said.
"Let this development be a chance for the Philippines to demonstrate openness and transparency as part of the fraternity of nations that values human rights and the rule of law," it added.