MANILA - Interior Secretary Eduardo Año on Monday questioned the move of International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to seek a probe into the alleged extrajudicial killings in the Duterte administration's drug war.
Government will stand by its decision to not cooperate with a possible ICC probe, said Año, whose agency oversees the Philippine National Police that implemented the deadly anti-narcotics campaign since 2016.
"Ang ICC normally iniimbestigahan ethnic genocide. Ang mga namatay dito ay mga criminal na involved sa drug at ito ay covered naman ng legitimate operations. Kaya nakakapagtaka bakit sini-single out ito at kina-categorize na genocide. It’s very far from the definition of genocide," he told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
(The ICC normally investigates ethnic genocide. Those killed here are criminals involved in drugs and these are covered by legitimate operations which is why it's puzzling why this is being singled out and categorized as genocide.)
"Wala na, kasi unang-una, ang ating DOJ (Department of Justice) nagsasagawa din ng kaniyang investigation," he said when asked if there's a chance government would change its position.
(There's no possibility because our DOJ is also conducting its own investigation.)
The ICC Office of the Prosecutor, now headed by Karim Khan after Bensouda's term ended last week, said it does not take a position on the Philippines’ internal policies and initiatives on dealing with psychoactive substances but had acted according to its mandate.
Murder and torture are among the acts listed under “crimes against humanity,” one of the 4 serious crimes over which the ICC has jurisdiction, aside from genocide, war crimes and the crime of aggression.
PNP chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar earlier said he would follow the chain of command on whether to cooperate with the ICC should the latter pursue an investigation.
President Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile, was pertaining to the "totality" of the drug war when he said it would be a threat to national security to open up case files of slain drug suspects, said Año.
"Alam naman natin, ang drug syndicate nago-operate hindi lang national, international pa yan," he said.
(We know drug syndicates do not only operate nationwide but internationally also.)
"Meron tayong ongoing counter-intelligence operations sa mga taong nasa loob ng gobyerno na maaaring nagpoprotekta (sa mga drug syndicate), including sa loob ng PNP."
(We have ongoing counter-intelligence operations against government workers who might be protectors of drug syndicates, including those in the PNP.)
The PNP had placed the drug war's death toll at over 7,000. Bensouda placed the toll "between 12,000 and 30,000."
Authorities said suspects slain in drug operations had violently resisted arrest, prompting police to defend themselves. But critics believe the state is behind cases of summary killings.
Duterte had repeatedly defended the killing of drug pushers, saying they destroy the country's youth and future.