MANILA - If the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte did nothing wrong, it should cooperate with the International Criminal Court investigation on possible crimes against humanity during the Philippines' war on drugs, Bishop Broderick Pabillo said Wednesday.
Pabillo, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila, said the ICC investigation could lead to answers on whether or not the Philippine government sponsored the killings against drug suspects.
"Kasi bahagi ng democracy ang accountability. Kasi 'yung alam natin ang officials naman ng bansa, sila'y mga stewards lang. Hindi naman kanila 'yung bansa. Pinagkatiwala sa kanila. Kung pinagkatiwala sa kanila, managot sila," the bishop said during a press briefing for the upcoming installation of Cardinal Jose Advincula as Manila's 33rd archbishop.
"Kung wala silang kasalanan, ba't hindi sila mag-participate?"
[Accountability is part of democracy. What we know is that the country's officials are stewards. They do not own the country, it was merely under their care. If so, they should be accountable... If they did nothing wrong, why are they refusing to participate?]
ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda earlier announced the conclusion of the preliminary examination into the situation in the Philippines and requested judicial authorization to proceed with a formal criminal investigation.
Previously, she said there were reasonable grounds to believe crimes against humanity had been committed during Duterte's anti-illegal drugs crackdown.
But Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte will never cooperate with the ICC. He said any decision to move forward with the investigation "is legally erroneous, politically motivated."
But for Pabillo, who has long criticized the brutality of Duterte's approach, the culture of impunity must come to an end.
"Kasi kung wala naman talagang kasalanan the investigation will show. Kung may kasalanan the investigation will show. Ang gusto lang sana nating maiwasan 'yung culture of impunity na magagawa nila ang gusto nilang gawin nang hindi mananagot," Pabillo added.
[If they did nothing wrong, the investigation will show. If they did something wrong, then the investigation will also show that. What we want is to end the culture of impunity, that they can no whatever they want without being accountable.]
Duterte canceled the Philippine membership of the ICC's founding treaty in 2018. Citing this, Roque, a former human rights lawyer, said the ICC has no jurisdiction to investigate the alleged crime against humanity.
But under the ICC's withdrawal mechanism, the court keeps jurisdiction over crimes committed during the membership period of a state, in this case between 2016 and 2019, when the Philippines' pullout became official.
According to government data, from the time President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016 until the end of April this year, security forces killed 6,117 drug dealers in sting operations.
Since then, members of Filipino Catholic hierarchy have denounced the killings.
Responding to the bishops' statements, Duterte has sent a flurry of verbal attacks against the prelates and the Catholic Church, calling it the most hypocritical institution. With a report from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News