No effort from PH gov't on 'serious' drug war probe - expert

Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 27 2022 01:35 PM | Updated as of Jun 27 2022 01:56 PM

Workers carry the remains of an alleged drug war victim after its exhumation at the Manila North Cemetery on Sept. 17, 2021. Several remains were exhumed after the leases on their graves expired. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File
Workers carry the remains of an alleged drug war victim after its exhumation at the Manila North Cemetery on Sept. 17, 2021. Several remains were exhumed after the leases on their graves expired. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — The Philippine government made "no effort" in conducting a "serious" investigation into alleged crimes against humanity in its anti-narcotics crackdown, an international human rights lawyer said Monday.

Ruben Carranza, senior expert of New York-based International Center for Transitional Justice, said this after the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court called for the resumption of the inquiry into President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.

ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan had said the Philippine government has not demonstrated it has investigated or is investigating crimes within the jurisdiction of the war crimes court.

"In other words, there's no effort from the Philippine government to find out if all these thousands of killings follow a pattern that might constitute crimes against humanity," Carranza told ANC's "Headstart".

He said he saw the resumption of the drug war probe coming after the "ICC advertised for investigators who can help in the Philippine situation" few months ago.

This, after the Philippine government failed to justify its request in November to defer the ICC probe. 

Khan noted that some of the government's initiatives are "not relevant" and it only dealt with a fraction of thousands killed in the drug war, where most of the perpetrators were identified as low-level.

"The most charitable way to interpret what the prosecutor is saying about this deferral effort is that it was incompetent," said Carranza, also former commissioner of the Presidential Commission on Good Government.

"At most... this was simply meant to delay the effort of the ICC to investigate these crimes against humanity."

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

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In comparison, in requesting the ICC to defer probe on war crimes, other countries such as Libya were "able to conduct serious, honest investigations," Carranza said.

"When you're being compared to a war-torn country where understandably the justice system is unlikely to work or the justice system does not even exist, yes, it is clearly shaming the Philippines, shaming the current Philippine government and telling it you can't just pretend that you're carrying out an investigation," he said.

"You have to actually conduct an investigation that leads to prosecution, that leads to punishment, that leads to the truth about this drug war killing."

Carranza said he expects Khan's request from the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber "to be resolved sooner".

Should the investigation into drug war killings resume, he said it could lead to the confirmation of charges hearing.

"It could lead to the drafting of charges and the identification of persons to be charged and the crimes for which they will be charged," Carranza said.

He noted though the Philippine government still could continue submitting documents on the question of admissibility.

"This question of admissibility is very important because this is what determines whether it's the ICC going forward that investigates this case or the Philippine government can take over and seriously carry out an investigation," he said.

In a statement, acting Palace spokesperson Martin Andanar had said government was "exasperated" with Khan's plan, 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.

A Commission on Human Right’s report released in May concluded that the Philippine government failed to respect human rights and encouraged a culture of impunity in its campaign.