Palace spokesman says drug war deaths 'collateral damage', info based on 'hearsay'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 16 2021 09:49 AM | Updated as of Jun 16 2021 10:10 AM

Palace spokesman says drug war deaths 'collateral damage', info based on 'hearsay' 1
President Rodrigo Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on June 14, 2021. King Rodriguez, Presidential Photo/File

MANILA - Outgoing International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's request for a full investigation into drug-war killings in the Philippines will not prosper because her report was based on hearsay information, Malacañang said Wednesday.

"We are confident it will not prosper beyond this stage because in the first place, you need cooperation of the state if you are going to resort to a case buildup but right now, all they have is hearsay information," presidential spokesperson Harry Roque told ANC's "Rundown".

On Monday, the top prosecutor of the international war crimes court asked judges to open an investigation into thousands of killings under the country's bloody drug crackdown, saying crimes against humanity could have been committed.

Roque claimed that majority of sources cited in Bensouda's preliminary examination came from the media.

"As a lawyer, we know that media sources are considered hearsay. We need to present people who have actual personal knowledge of events to prove particularly criminal liability, which is proof beyond reasonable doubt," he said.

The Palace spokesman noted a crime against humanity requires a widespread and systematic attack against a civilian population "with the knowledge that it is being directed against a civilian population."

"The reality is the alleged killings arising from the drug war were not killings intended to target civilians as such. They were collateral damage so to speak arising from a valid police operation...to deal with the growing threat of drugs," he said. 

Roque slammed Bensouda's report as "fantastic," saying it is not based on forensic evidence.

"Without resorting to forensic examination, without resorting to primary documents, relying only on media reports, she came out with a fantastic conclusion that almost all of the killings were in fact they themselves were nanlaban," he said.

Since Duterte took office in 2016, more than 6,000 were killed in sting operations, based on government figures. But rights groups estimated the number of drug-war killings could be as high as 30,000.

Bensouda's request for full investigation also violates the principle of complementarity since the country's domestic legal system is "functioning," Duterte's spokesman said.

He cited the investigations being conducted by the Department of Justice on the alleged lapses in the anti-narcotics operations.

"If that is not the willingness on the part of the Philippines to investigate, I don’t know what is," he said.

In March 2018, Duterte canceled the Philippines’ membership of the ICC’s founding treaty just weeks after Bensouda announced the preliminary examination was under way. He said the ICC was prejudiced against him.

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.

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