Rights group asks ICC to continue drug war probe

A HUMAN rights group on Thursday urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to pursue its investigation of the Philippine government’s deadly war on drugs after President Ferdinand R. Marcos’ decision not to rejoin the international tribunal.

In a statement, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) said the president’s decision shields former President Rodrigo R. Duterte and his agents from prosecution and shows intent to continue the crimes.

“The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines is extremely disappointed but not surprised by the new Marcos administration’s decision to keep the Philippines outside the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court,” Chairman Peter Murphy said. “This is part of the continued and ongoing state cover-up of crimes against humanity.”

The group said the ICC would be impartial in case it continues its probe of Mr. Duterte’s anti-illegal drug campaign that has killed thousands.

“We reiterate that the ICC should vigorously pursue the full investigation of the previous Duterte administration for these alleged crimes against humanity so that, finally, justice may be served and impunity ended.”

The Hague-based tribunal on July 14 gave the Philippines until Sept. 8 to comment on the ICC Office of the Prosecutor’s request to resume the probe into alleged crimes against humanity by Mr. Duterte and his officials. It also allowed victims to make written submissions through their lawyers.

Mr. Marcos, Jr., a close political ally of the Dutertes, this week said the Philippines would not rejoin the ICC. Mr. Duterte canceled Philippine membership in the international tribunal in 2018.

In March, ICHRP vowed to sanction the architects of Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs. The campaign sought to impose travel and financial bans on officials allegedly involved in human rights violations.

This was a follow-up on a report conducted last year by Investigate PH, an independent human rights group that alleged patterns of systemic human rights violations, including crimes against humanity by the government.

Former national police chief Ronald M. dela Rosa, the main enforcer of the drug war and now a senator, said the probe is an insult to the Philippine Justice system. He said he would not cooperate with the investigation.

The ICC, which tries people charged with crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes and aggression, suspended its probe of the anti-illegal drug campaign last year upon the Philippine government’s request.

In a 53-page request to the international court’s pre-trial chamber, ICC Prosecutor Karim Ahmad A. Khan said the Philippines had failed to show it investigated crimes related to the campaign.

He said the chamber should issue an order on an “expedited basis.” It should “receive any further observations it considers appropriate from victims and the government of the Philippines,” he added.

Several human rights groups have urged Mr. Marcos to rejoin the ICC and to work closely with the tribunal in its probe of Mr. Duterte’s anti-illegal drug campaign.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla told a press briefing on Wednesday the agency would pursue cases against rogue cops and appealed to witnesses to cooperate.

He also said they would share information with the Commission on Human Rights.

The Department of Justice had only brought five of the 52 cases involving 150 police officers to court since it started its own probe last year. An inter-agency committee formed 15 teams last year that probed alleged extralegal killings and human rights violations involving the government’s anti-illegal drug operations.

Data from the Philippine government released in June 2021 showed that at least 6,117 suspected drug dealers had been killed in police operations as of April 2021. Human rights groups estimate that as many as 30,000 suspects died. — John Victor D. Ordoñez