MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte's previous remarks on the drug war are highly relevant to show his alleged policy on drug war killings, a global watchdog said Thursday.
Param-Preet Singh of New York-based Human Rights Watch said outgoing International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had used this information to justify a request for a full investigation into the Philippines' bloody anti-narcotics crackdown.
"In our view, these statements are highly relevant to show this policy that exists," she told ANC's "Rundown."
"Whether or not it's sufficient to show individual culpability, that's an issue for the prosecutor to determine and the evidence has to tell a story."
Though Duterte's public statements were helpful, building a case against someone for criminal responsibility requires "a very deep pool of evidence," she added.
Upon assuming office in July 2016, Duterte has vowed to wipe out drug traffickers and that he would have their bodies dumped in the Manila Bay so that fish there would grow fat from feeding on them.
Months later, the President admitted the existence of extra-judicial killings but was quick to say that the state had nothing to do with them. This, after his administration received flak from international observers due to its alleged involvement in summary executions.
In December 2016, he defended the killing of drug pushers after admitting that he had "personally" killed suspected criminals while serving as mayor of Davao City.
Two years later, Duterte said his “only sin” was “extra-judicial killings," which refers to executions being linked to the government’s war on drugs but are not legally sanctioned.
In 2020, the President, known for preaching a tough stance on criminality and illegal drugs, said he has never ordered law enforcers to kill drug pushers and other suspects.
This came a day after the International Criminal Court prosecutor’s office said it found “reasonable basis” to believe crimes against humanity were allegedly perpetrated in carrying out Duterte’s violent war on drugs.
He also earlier backtracked from his past remarks, saying he never killed anyone.
On Monday, Bensouda asked judges to open an investigation into the drug war, saying crimes against humanity could have been committed.
Singh, associate director of the HRW's international justice program, said it would usually take 3 months before the pre-trial chamber would respond to Bensouda's request.
"So far, every request made by the prosecutor to open an investigation has been granted," she said.
Should the investigation proceed, Singh said it may take years, "even more so with a government not willing to cooperate."
"Given the lack of support that the government has already expressed very clearly and very consistently, I expect that the court will probably go down the route of seeking arrest warrants rather than seeking their cooperation," she said.