PH envoy tells ICC: Gov't investigated 'crimes against humanity' in war on drugs

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 19 2021 10:25 PM

MANILA - The Philippine envoy to the Netherlands has told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that the Philippine government investigated the supposed "crimes against humanity" in the Duterte administration's war on drugs. 

Philippine Ambassador to the Netherlands J. Eduardo Malaya wrote to the Office of the Prosecutor informing the international tribunal that the country's democratic institutions "are fully functional and more than adequate to address the issues and concerns raised." 

Because of this, the government is asking the ICC to defer to the government's investigation of the drug war, noting the mechanisms in place that would assure them of the government's "[commitment] to the rule of law with the highest regard to due process." 

"The Philippine Government hereby informs the ICC that it is investigating or has investigated its nationals or others within its jurisdiction with respect to the alleged crimes against humanity," Malaya's Nov. 10 letter to ICC prosecutor Karim Khan read. 

"The Philippine Government hereby requests that the prosecutor defer to [its] investigations and proceedings... In accordance with the principle of complementarity under which the Court operates, the... government has the first responsibility and right to prosecute international crimes," it added.

The envoy also cited the Department of Justice's (DOJ) findings on 52 cases involving deaths during the police's anti-narcotics operations in the country. 

However, the agency has yet to release similar information on the over 300 cases it scrutinized under the first drug war review.

Meanwhile, the investigation on the policemen involved and the monitoring of criminal indictments as well as the preliminary probe related to the drug war demonstrate the "recognition of the need to address allegations of impunity in the field against erring law enforcement officers and personnel." 

"Beyond the conduct of investigations, the Philippine government is likewise keen on ensuring the successful prosecution of cases that have been filed or may be filed in court against erring PNP members and others within its jurisdiction," the letter read. 

Centerlaw Philippines opposed the Philippine government's call for deferral, and described government arguments in the letter as false. 

"The Philippine government claims that 'it is investigating or has investigated' the Crimes Against Humanity in Duterte’s drug war. This could not be further from the truth," Centerlaw said. 

"On the contrary, the fact that only 52 cases of the estimated 30,000 killed have been reviewed reveals that the government’s feigned compliance with international justice is paper-thin."

The non-profit organization called on the ICC to continue its probe on drug war killings.

Shortly after DOJ released the matrix, human rights groups and lawyers described it as the "tip of the iceberg," with the 52 cases among thousands hardly indicating transparency.

The Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) said the DOJ's review of the 52 cases "barely scratches the surface and is grossly insufficient and inconsistent with the government's commitments under international law." 

It also emphasized that the review revealed the lack of transparency in the probe of drug war killings in the country. 

Hounded by international and local pressure to investigate the drug war killings with the ICC probe, the PNP in the middle of this year forwarded these cases to the DOJ for the latter's second drug war review.

The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber in August gave its green light for the ICC Prosecutor to conduct a formal probe on the drug war killings in the Philippines.

Officially, 6,200 drug suspects were killed in what police said were sting operations where suspects resisted arrest since the start of the Duterte administration.

But activists say many thousands more people, mostly users or small-time dealers, were killed in slum communities by mystery gunmen. Police have denied involvement in those deaths.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this month owned up to the responsibility for the deaths of alleged drug traffickers and several mayors, amid the looming ICC probe. 

"And if there's anybody who should go to the prison, it should not be the police nor the PDEA. It should be me, because they were acting upon my orders," he had said. 

— with a report from Reuters

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