The International Criminal Court (ICC) should drop its inquiry on the “crimes against humanity” allegedly committed under President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war, Malacañang said Thursday.
Presidential spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque said the ICC should avoid “wasting its time” from investigating the administration’s brutal anti-narcotics drive, insisting the Philippines won’t acknowledge the court’s jurisdiction.
His remarks came days after the Supreme Court unanimously scrapped petitions challenging the withdrawal of the country’s ratification of the Rome Statute, a treaty that established the Hague-based international court, for being “moot and academic.”
“Because of this, we ask the ICC to refrain from wasting time with their investigation because the Philippines does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC,” Roque said.
“This is also proof that our legal processes work so it is only right for ICC to stop its interference with our domestic affairs,” he added.
The first petition questioning the country’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute was filed on May 16, 2018 by opposition Senators Francis Pangilinan, Franklin Drilon, Bam Aquino, Leila de Lima, Risa Hontiveros, and Antonio Trillanes IV, arguing that Duterte’s move requires concurrence of at least two-thirds of the members of the Senate.
A second petition was filed by the Philippine Coalition for the ICC on June 13, 2018, claiming the president committed grave abuse of discretion when he decided to withdraw from the court solely based on “capricious, whimsical, ridiculous, misleading or misled, incoherent and/or patently false grounds, with no basis in fact, law or jurisprudence.”
The ICC, which came into force in 2002 to probe the world’s worst crimes, is a “court of last resort” and exercises jurisdiction only if member states are unwilling or unable to prosecute offenders.
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in December found “reasonable basis” to believe that Duterte’s drug war has spawned crimes against humanity such as murder, torture, and the infliction of serious physical injury and mental harm between July 1, 2016 and March 16, 2019.
Bensouda’s office opened in February 2018 a preliminary probe into the slay of thousands of suspected drug users and peddlers in the Philippines, including those killed for allegedly resisting arrest or were allegedly gunned down by law enforcers disguised as vigilantes.
In turn, Roque and Duterte’s chief legal counsel, Secretary Salvador Panelo, accused the prosecutor of politicking.
The Philippine government has repeatedly denied that violations were committed during the administration’s drug war, saying suspects were killed because they resisted arrest, although the president himself and his officials often comment on murdering criminals, particularly those allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has formed an inter-agency panel to probe about 5,655 anti-illegal drug operations where deaths occurred.
Last month, Justice Secretary Menardo Gueverra told the Human Rights Council that “in more than half of the records reviewed, the law enforcement agents involved failed to follow standard protocols pertaining to coordination with other agencies and the processing of the crime scene.”
Based on government data, Duterte’s drug war has left 5,903 suspects killed, but human rights groups peg the fatalities at 20,000. Authorities say over 259,000 have been arrested.