Human rights groups and advocates held a national conference in Vancouver to discuss the results of Investigate PH's report on President Rodrigo Duterte's anti-drug war which critics say has killed as many as 30,000 people.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) recently authorized an investigation on Duterte's alleged human rights violations. One of the high commissioners for Investigate PH, Reverend Dr. Chris Ferguson, said Duterte can try to ignore the ICC probe but he cannot prevent the international body from doing its duties, which could include prosecuting him.
Malacañang has repeatedly argued that the ICC has no jurisdiction over Duterte and the conduct of his war on drugs because the Philippines has no longer been part of the ICC since March 2019. But the ICC has said it has jurisdiction over crimes committed while the Philippines was still a member.
"He can turn his back, but it doesn't mean the train will stop coming at him," Ferguson pointed out. "Doesn't matter what he thinks about it, doesn't matter what he says about it, doesn't matter whether he joins... Nobody is above the law."
Ferguson added, "the most important thing to say is that the war on drugs isn't a war and it's not against drugs. That, in fact, is an assault on ordinary poor Filipino people... It's not effective for either purpose, but violates all standards of human rights. So it's illegitimate. It's excessive, it's wrong and and it's not effective for its so-called goal."
For Szara Salise of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines-Toronto, Duterte failed to follow through on his election promise for change. Salise, who came to Canada when she was 13 years old, stressed the importance of the 2022 Presidential elections in the Philippines to overseas absentee voters.
"My family made sure that we are able to vote in the upcoming elections so our voice, even though we are outside of the Philippines, can be part of the voice of the voting Filipinos," Salise said.
For her part, Beth Dollaga of the Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights urges Filipino voters to choose the right candidate to truly lead the homeland. "We have to really be vigilant and if you're outraged by our conditions, our present condition, this is our time to register our rage through voting for the right person," Dollaga asserted.