HRW: Request to resume PH drug war probe ‘booster shot for accountability’

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 25 2022 09:59 AM | Updated as of Jun 25 2022 01:56 PM

Relatives of drug war victims receive the cremated remains of their loved ones during a church ceremony in Quezon City on March 28, 2022, as part of Project Arise. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News
Relatives of drug war victims receive the cremated remains of their loved ones during a church ceremony in Quezon City on March 28, 2022, as part of Project Arise. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Palace ‘exasperated’ over ICC prosecutor's request 

MANILA (UPDATE) – The International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor's request to let his office resume investigating the drug war in the Philippines is a "booster shot for accountability," US-based Human Rights Watch has said.

In a 53-page document, Karim Khan said the Philippine government has not demonstrated that it has investigated or is investigating crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction after his office analyzed the Philippine government’s deferral request.

“The ICC prosecutor’s request to resume the investigation into alleged crimes against humanity in the Philippine government’s 'drug war' is a booster shot for accountability," Human Rights Watch senior international justice counsel Maria Elena Vignoli said.

In September 2021, the ICC said its Pre-Trial Chamber granted the ICC Prosecutor’s request to proceed with its probe into the anti-narcotics campaign in the Philippines from July 2016 when President Rodrigo Duterte took office until March 16, 2019, when the Philippines’ withdrawal from the Rome Statute that created the ICC took effect.

The probe will also cover killings in Davao from November 1, 2011, to June 30, 2016, when Duterte served both as mayor and vice mayor.

Vignoli said the Philippines "has not been serious about justice for these crimes while the victims’ families grieve without redress and those responsible face no consequences."

PALACE BLASTS KHAN

In a statement, acting Palace spokesperson Martin Andanar said government was "exasperated" with the request of Khan, noting that Duterte's drug war has been "successful" in bringing down the number of crimes related to illegal drugs. 

Andanar also touted the "transparency" it had with the campaign by coordinating with the justice department and the national police when it comes to investigations.

"This shows transparency and the efforts to address alleged flaws in the campaign are in fact supported by the United Nations in its 3-year technical cooperation program with the Philippines known as the Joint Program on Human Rights that took effect in July last year," Duterte's spokesman said in a statement. 

"Let these efforts of the Philippine government run their course; after all, reciprocity is a key principle in the methods of work of the ICC. To veer away from this principle will only reveal the politicization that has infiltrated the ICC’s ranks," he added. 

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) earlier said in its rights report that the administration's drug war "encouraged a culture of impunity" and was not even transparent. 

The commission earlier said it lacked access to police documents in 295 of the drug killings due to lack of response, outright denials, or pending clearance from higher offices.

Precinct-level probes were conducted by members of the same station or unit, and seldom questioned the use of force and self-defense narrative, said the agency. 

Andanar also blasted Khan because while the CHR recommended the continued monitoring of organizations on the rights situation in the Philippines, the agency did not recommend the intervention of ICC.

"In no part of its report did it even imply the need for direct external investigation," he said. 

"Surely, the CHR knows the implications of such intervention on State sovereignty, and we expect the ICC, especially Mr. Khan, to know that as well."

Duterte's 6-year campaign against illegal drugs has resulted in over 7,000 drug-related deaths, data analyzed by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group earlier showed.

Duterte has repeatedly rejected the ICC probe, with his aides saying that the country's justice system is working.

To recall, 3 police officers were jailed for the murder of Kian Loyd Delos Santos, an incident that triggered public outcry and scrutiny of Duterte's war on drugs.

ABS-CBN News is still seeking the side of the Department of Justice, Malacañang, the Philippine National Police, and other relevant government agencies. – With a report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

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