MANILA — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is depriving Filipinos of a court of last resort after saying that his administration does not intend to make the country a part again of the International Criminal Court, a coalition of human rights defenders said Tuesday.
Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court (PCICC) co-chairperson Aurora Parong said Manila not returning as a signatory to the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the ICC, would deny justice to Filipinos should processes in the country "fail" them.
"When President Marcos said that he will not rejoin the ICC, he is depriving people of a court of last resort for those serious crimes," Parong told ANC's "Rundown".
"And even our problem at the West Philippine Sea, because crime of aggression is included, and so that's a possible area for accountability," she added, referring to China's incursions in portions of the South China Sea that are within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.
Marcos' statement came after the tribunal's prosecutor sought to resume an investigation into former President Rodrigo Duterte's deadly war on drugs.
Duterte is the father of Vice President Sara Duterte, Marcos' running mate in the May elections.
The country officially withdrew from the ICC in 2019 when it started a preliminary examination into the bloody crackdown, which killed thousands of people.
While the PCICC was not surprised by the decision of Marcos, who Parong said previously indicated he would not cooperate with the tribunal, the coalition stressed there had not been "adequate" investigations into the drug war killings.
She cited the report of forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun, who found out that some death certificates of drug war victims were allegedly falsified.
Parong also noted only few direct perpetrators were held accountable in the drug war killings and those who may have command responsibility got off scot-free.
She cited the case of 17-year-old Kian Lloyd delos Santos, who was killed by three policemen in Caloocan City in August 2017.
Parong said she was also saddened that Marcos retained former Duterte spokesman Harry Roque as private legal counsel in relation to the ICC probe.
"Is that an ominous sign that there will be possibly this of really continuing the war on drugs that kills and contribute to possible crimes against humanity?" she said.
Roque is a human rights lawyer who once criticized the Marcoses for rights abuses and excesses. He was also a former co-chairperson of PCICC, who pushed the government to ratify the Rome Statute.
Parong said Roque knew there was no "good, genuine investigation" into the drug war killings.
"He's just denying many things that he knows as a lawyer," she added.
Even if the Philippine government continues to ignore the ICC probe, Parong said "there's that possibility the probe will continue and there can be possible warrants of arrest and trial."
Under the ICC's statute, the tribunal has jurisdiction for crimes committed between 2016 and 2019.
When Duterte was swept into power in 2016, he carried out the war on drugs, which led to the deaths of over 6,000 people. Authorities said suspects died in legitimate operations because they fought back.
The ICC is a permanent court of last resort that prosecutes serious international crimes, like genocide and crimes against humanity.