SolGen: Gov’t wants to respond to drug war victims’ kin
The Philippine government should be allowed to respond to any pleading that may be filed in the International Criminal Court (ICC) by the alleged victims of the Duterte administration’s antidrug campaign, Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra said on Thursday.
His statement was a response to the ICC Appeals Chamber’s decision to allow the victims of the bloody war on drugs to present their views and concerns over the government’s request to stop the resumption of the investigation of the killings in connection with the charge of crimes against humanity against former President Rodrigo Duterte and several members of his administration.
“For as long as the state will be given a fair opportunity to respond to the victims’ submissions during the appeals stage, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) will not make any further comment on their involvement,” Guevarra told reporters.
Who are they?
On March 13, the OSG asked the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber to halt the resumption of the investigation of the brutal antidrug campaign by its prosecutor.
The request of the victims was submitted on behalf of 90 applicants to “present views and concerns” regarding the appeal submitted by the Philippine government.
“We want to make it of record that at no time during the initial stages of this case was the State ever confronted with the complaints of the alleged victims, much less given an opportunity to address the same,” Guevarra said. “We do not know who the 90 anonymous victim applicants are and where they are coming from.”
On March 21, the ICC Appeals Chamber allowed the families of drug war victims as well as its Office of Public Counsel for Victims to comment on the government’s appeal to stop its investigation.
It instructed the Victims Participation and Reparations Section, which assists victims when they apply for participation in proceedings, to “collect and transmit” representations from any interested victims and victims’ groups.
The chamber said it “considered it appropriate for victims to be involved in the appeals proceedings.” However, it rejected their request to submit a direct response to the government’s appeal to stop the investigation, and granted only their request to make representations, according to Kristina Conti, one of the lawyers for the victims.
It also authorized the Office of Public Counsel for Victims, an independent office that provides legal counsel to victims throughout the proceedings, to file its own written observations on the Philippine government’s appeal brief by April 18.
The chamber’s decision effectively grants the request of at least 90 families of alleged extrajudicial killings (EJKs) during the drug war to present their views and concerns in the appeal proceedings.
The victims’ request redacted the names of the applicants.
However, some mothers have already come forward saying they would submit their representations at this stage.
Mother’s last resort
They include Cristine Pascual, mother of 17-year-old Joshua Laxamana, who was killed in an alleged shootout with Pangasinan police officers.
She told reporters in a recent forum that she saw the ICC as a court of last resort to seek justice for their loved ones.
Pascual also serves as a representative for the group Rise Up for Rights and for Life, a group of families of EJK victims represented in the case.
In appealing for the right to comment, the families—whose names were redacted from the submission—argued that the court’s decision whether to pursue an investigation “has an immediate and direct effect on their personal interests … as they have not been able to obtain justice and remedies for the crimes committed against their family members.”
In a television interview on Wednesday, Guevarra said that while an ICC warrant of arrest against Duterte was possible once the ICC prosecutor’s investigation resumes.
“Whether the ICC can enforce it or not is a totally different question because the ICC will have to depend on local authorities to enforce that warrant of arrest. So, if the government does not cooperate because the matter of jurisdiction has not been finally settled, who will enforce the warrant of arrest?” he said in the CNN Philippines interview.