52 out of 30,000 deaths? Rights group disputes gov’t claims of DOJ drug war probe
MANILA, Philippines — A human rights organization has disputed the Philippine government’s claims that it is investigating the killings connected to the drug war and that legal remedies are available for complainants – which were used as basis in the request to defer the International Criminal Court (ICC) probe.
The Center for International Law (Centerlaw) said on Friday that the basis used in the Philippine government’s request for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to defer the probe on Duterte and other drug war implementers — because investigations are already underway — are far from the truth.
According to Centerlaw, the investigations that the government cited before the ICC are those that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) made on 52 drug cases where the drug suspects died. It noted, however, that allegedly, around 30,000 more people have already died due to the anti-drug campaign.
“On 10 November 2021, the Philippine government filed an Article 18(2) Notice with the Office of the Prosecutor requesting a deferral of their investigation into the Situation in the Philippines. Citing the 19 October 2021 the Department of Justice matrix, the Philippine government claims that ‘it is investigating or has investigated” the Crimes Against Humanity in Duterte’s drug war,’” Centerlaw said.
“This could not be farther from the truth. 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,” it added.
Earlier, it was revealed that the Philippine government, through Philippine ambassador to the Netherlands Eduardo Malaya, sent in a letter telling ICC that the government is “investigating or has investigated its nationals or others within the jurisdiction with respect to the alleged crimes against humanity of murder under Article 7(1) of the Rome Statute”.
The Rome Statute is the international treaty that established the ICC. Malaya’s letter came just one month since the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber granted the Prosecutor’s judicial request for a full-blown investigation of the drug war.
“Justice must be done not only in word but in deed. Centerlaw thus calls on the ICC, in the interests of international justice, to authorize the OTP to continue with their investigations of the Situation in the Philippines, as empowered under Article 18(2) of the Rome Statute,” Centerlaw said.
As of September 2021, official government data shows that almost 6,200 drug suspects have died during legitimate police operations, which means over 1,000 dead individuals due to the drug war every year under Duterte’s term.
But some groups like Centerlaw have claimed that the actual death toll is far larger, ranging from a number between 12,000 to 30,000. These issues have also led the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber to allow the Office of the Prosecutor to do a full-blown investigation of allegations that Duterte committed the crime against humanity of wide-scale murder.
In the 57-page request made by former ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, she maintained that based on information gathered by her office, there is reason to believe that state actors have killed thousands of civilians under the war against illegal drugs
She also noted that the information suggests that vigilante-style killings were perpetrated by police officers themselves, or other private individuals hired by authorities.
Malacañang and Duterte however refused to acknowledge the ICC’s jurisdiction over the country, saying several times that they would not cooperate with the probe.
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