Bid to resume ICC drug war probe shows prosecutor may be ready for trial: lawyer

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 27 2022 11:25 AM | Updated as of Jun 27 2022 12:21 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his speech during the inspection of the National Academy of Sports in Capas, Tarlac on June 14, 2022. Alberto Alcain, Presidential Photo
President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his speech during the inspection of the National Academy of Sports in Capas, Tarlac on June 14, 2022. Alberto Alcain, Presidential Photo

MANILA — The International Criminal Court prosecutor's request to resume its probe into the Philippines' drug war shows that it might be ready for trial, a lawyer representing the victims said Monday.

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

Khan's recent statements and "clear indictment of the President tells us maybe he’s just not ready for this investigation, he’s ready for trial," said lawyer Kristina Conti, assistant counsel to victims.

"The amount of evidence before him shows, tells us this case is ripe in the sense that we have clear evidence from the victims," she told ANC's Headstart.

"That the killings are widespread and systematic. And then that establishes crimes against humanity not just murder. And he has identified a pattern, a policy that leads up to the President."

The victims and their families welcome the development and "took it as a vindication," Conti said.

"In this document, the ICC has clearly parsed through and ran over cases that have been submitted or under investigation in the Philippines. And that gives us hope clearly that the position of the Philippines not investigating genuinely is supported even by the ICC analysis," she said.

The victims' families are "somewhat skeptical" of government's efforts to review the drug war because "there have been very few efforts" to reach out to them, Conti said.

"What it means for a lot of us on the ground is they aren't looking at victims of these crimes, they aren't seeing us as partners in this journey towards accountability," she said.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in September last year approved a full inquiry into alleged crimes against humanity in President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war. The ICC suspended the probe some 2 months later following a request by the Philippines, which cited its own investigations. 

More than 6,000 people have been killed under Duterte's anti-narcotics campaign based on police data but human rights groups claim it could go up to "a high of 30,000," Conti said. 

"President-in-waiting Ferdinand Marcos has said he intends to continue with the policy and that is our problem...Oplan Tokhang orders the police to conduct these drug operations and clearly challenges them to go above the numbers," she said.

"Under President Marcos…these numbers will continue to rise. We take note also that the Vice President-in-waiting is the President's own daughter."

But Marcos recently said he would continue the anti-narcotics campaign "with respect for human rights and focus on rehabilitation," according to a diplomat. 

In the run-up to the May 9 elections, he and Vice President-elect Sara Duterte said they would tap more health workers to take care of drug dependents, and give them livelihood such as making handicraft while in rehabilitation. 

The pair said government must also intensify port monitoring against the possible entry of narcotics and ensure that Filipinos have jobs that would not get them lured to the drug trade. 

Meanwhile, 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 ICC Prosecutor's investigation will cover killings under the drug war since Duterte assumed office in July 2016 until the Philippines' withdrawal from the Rome Statute on March 16, 2019. 

It would also look into the killings in Davao City from Nov. 1, 2011 to June 30, 2016, when Duterte served as mayor and vice mayor.

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