MANILA — While the International Criminal Court (ICC) "can do whatever it wants," Malacañang said on Tuesday the tribunal would struggle to build a case against alleged crimes against humanity in President Rodrigo Duterte's anti-narcotics drive.
The ICC called on families of drug war victims to submit their concerns and views in connection with the request of a prosecutor for a full-blown inquiry into Duterte's flagship campaign, a recently retired judge of the court said on Friday.
"The ICC can do whatever it wants," Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque said, when asked for the Palace's reaction on the report.
"Pero iyong isang chamber po ng ICC ay minsan sinabi na talagang dapat hindi na nag-iimbestiga kung wala namang kooperasyon kasi paano ka nga magkakaroon ng case buildup kung walang kooperasyon doon sa member state," he said in a press briefing.
(But a chamber of the ICC once said that there shouldn't be an investigation if there is cooperation because how can you have a case buildup without the member-state's cooperation.)
Duterte refuses to submit to the probe. In 2019, he withdrew the Philippines from the ICC after it launched a preliminary examination into the war on drugs.
The court could still investigate crimes committed while the country was a member, ICC's former chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has said.
"Alam ko po na there’s been a view expressed that withdrawal from the ICC will not affect jurisdiction for the period during which the country was a member," said Roque, a lawyer.
"Pero alam din po ng ICC without cooperation from the state, napakahirap po ng case build up because all criminal cases, even in the ICC and most especially in the ICC, must present real evidence and not just newspaper reports."
(I know a view has been expressed that withdrawal from the ICC will not affect jurisdiction for the period during which the country was a member. But the ICC also knows that without cooperation from the state, it is very difficult to build a case because all criminal cases, even in the ICC and most especially in the ICC, must present real evidence and not just newspaper reports.)
Duterte was elected in 2016 on a campaign promise to get rid of the country's drug problem, and he openly ordered police to kill drug suspects if their lives were in danger.
"The available information indicates that members of the Philippine National Police, and others acting in concert with them, have unlawfully killed between several thousand and tens of thousands of civilians" during the period under investigation, Bensouda said earlier this June, in one of her last acts before stepping down.
But Roque rejected her findings and said it was "an insult to all Filipinos" to suggest the country's justice system was not working.
"We will be compared to countries like Darfur, areas where there is no functioning government. It's not right," he said.
"If killings occurred, appropriate force and violence were observed."
The crackdown is Duterte's signature policy initiative and he defends it fiercely, especially from critics such as Western leaders and institutions which he says do not care about the Philippines.
More than 6,000 people have been killed in over 200,000 anti-drug operations conducted since July 2016, according to official data.
Human rights groups estimate the number of dead could be several times higher.
Many suspects have been put on "drug watch lists" by local officials and then visited by police at their homes -- a situation which often ends in a deadly shooting that officers claim was self-defense.
Rights groups welcomed Bensouda's request, with Amnesty International describing the ICC investigation as a "landmark step."
— With a report from Agence France-Presse
Video courtesy of PTV