ICC receives another communication on Duterte's drug war

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 05 2019 01:20 PM | Updated as of Apr 05 2019 11:36 PM

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MANILA (UPDATE) - The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has confirmed receipt of a communication filed by the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) last year over President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.

An email received by the lawyers' group on Thursday confirmed the receipt of their communication.

“On behalf of the Prosecutor, I thank you for your communication received on 28/08/2018, as well as any subsequent related information,” wrote Mark Dillon, head of the Information and Evidence Unit of the Office of the Prosecutor.

In the letter, Dillon confirmed that the subject matter of the communication is already under preliminary examination by the ICC Office of the Prosecutor.

“It appears that your communication relates to a situation already under preliminary examination by the Office of the Prosecutor. Accordingly, your communication will be analyzed in this context, with the assistance of other related communications and other available information,” he said.

According to NUPL-NCR Secretary-General Kristina Conti, the communication involves the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.

Among the cases they submitted to the ICC is the killing of 23-year-old Djastin Lopez, who had epilepsy. He was allegedly slain by police officers in Tondo, Manila on May 18, 2017.

NUPL noted the conflicting police reports: one said it was a buy-bust operation where Lopez allegedly resisted arrest, while another one said Lopez allegedly fired at a police officer when he was approached during a follow-up operation.

It was reported on Thursday that the Office of the Ombudsman had ordered the dismissal of suspect Police Staff Sgt. Gerry Geñalope as well as the filing of a murder charge against him.

But in a statement released Friday, NUPL said others involved in the killing also need to be charged, including the leader of the operation.

It noted that the Ombudsman has yet to determine if the May 18, 2017 operation was a legitimate police operation, what violations were committed, and who are the personalities involved.

The group suggested Geñalope might even be a fall guy.

According to NUPL, Lopez’s mother, Normita, will pursue the Ombudsman case as well as the communication filed with the ICC by NUPL and rights group Rise Up for Life and for Rights.

“Despite threats and dissuasion against cooperating with the ICC, Lopez, Rise UP, and the NUPL will continue to provide the international court with relevant information about the Philippine ‘war on drugs,’ in assertion of our democratic rights and for a chance of survival in the era of Rodrigo Duterte,” NUPL said.

INDICTMENT OF COP NOT HINDRANCE TO ICC INVESTIGATION 

Conti said Geñalope's indictment would not be a hindrance to the ICC taking jurisdiction over the case.

The ICC is the world’s permanent war crimes court that tackles cases that local tribunals could not handle, among them mass killings and other forms of abuses. 

“Genalope's indictment will strengthen our argument that the Philippine courts are unwilling and unable to prosecute the horrible mass murders. Only low ranking policemen - three in Kian's (Kian delos Santos) case and now one in DJ's (Lopez) - are being held liable for the killings that run into the thousands,” Conti said in a message to ABS-CBN News.

“This year the number of dead in police drug operations, as admitted officially, breached 5,000 persons. The convictions and even the prosecutions are so miniscule that taken together they do not constitute an effective accountability mechanism in the Philippines,” she added.

Conti stressed that the person they believe most responsible for the deaths- President Rodrigo Duterte- could not even be prosecuted under Philippine laws given his immunity.

“And we must reiterate that we narrowed down the perpetrator to the one "most responsible" of this crime against humanity of murder and persecution - Rodrigo Duterte. The fact that he is not, and never will be, on trial in domestic cases/court means that we will not be able to prevent or secure justice for these wholesale crimes in the Philippines. The ICC must consider it within the urgent interests of justice to open their country investigation and trial soonest possible,” she said.

In the ICC Office of the Prosecutor’s letter to NUPL, Dillon said the office will evaluate whether “there is reasonable basis to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court have been committed, the gravity of the crimes, whether national systems are investigating and prosecuting the relevant crimes, and the interests of justice.”

He cautioned “meaningful analysis of these factors can take some time.”

In December last year, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda revealed her office has received 52 communications since the start of their preliminary examination on the country’s drug war on February 8, 2018.

The Philippines officially withdrew from the ICC on March 17 this year.