Makabayan group thanks ICC for not stopping ‘drug war’ probe: It’s been long delayed
MANILA, Philippines — The progressive Makabayan group has thanked the International Criminal Court (ICC) for rejecting the Philippine government’s request to suspend its probe into the Duterte administration’s bloody campaign against illegal drugs.
According to Makabayn, the ICC’s “drug war” inquiry has already been long delayed.
Alliance of Concerned Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro said in a statement Tuesday that relatives of drug suspects allegedly killed under the pretext of the anti-drug drive of former President Rodrigo Duterte have suffered long enough.
On March 13, the Philippine government asked the ICC Appeals Chamber to discontinue the drug war probe on the basis that it has no jurisdiction over the country. But the ICC on Tuesday said the Philippine government failed to explain why there is no legal basis for the ICC prosecutor’s investigation to continue.
“The denial of the ICC appeals chamber on the Marcos-Duterte administration’s bid to suspend the probe on former Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s bogus drug war is a welcome development in the quest for justice for the victims of extra-judicial killings during the drug war and their families,” Castro said.
“The cases have been long delayed, and only some have been brought to courts but many have been killed. Asking for the suspension of the probe is obviously a delaying tactic of the Marcos-Duterte administration with the goal of protecting people involved in the drug war,” she added, speaking in Filipino.
Former lawmaker and now Bayan Muna chairperson Neri Colmenares, who also lawyers for families whose relatives died during anti-drug operations, said there is no basis for the current administration to ask for another suspension of the ICC investigation.
Colmenares and other complainants filed the crime against humanity of murder complaint against former President Duterte and a number of others as several drug operations allegedly ended with suspects being killed despite surrendering and even if people were not real drug war targets.
“Clearly, there is no basis for the claim of the Marcos-Duterte administration that the ICC investigation would create an ‘irreversible’ damage on the Philippines that ‘cannot be corrected’. The Marcos-Duterte administration could always continue its supposed investigation here while the ICC is also investigating,” he said.
“The Philippine threat that an ICC investigation has ‘far reaching and inimical consequences on the suspects, witnesses and victims’ is also without legal or factual basis,” he added.
On the contrary, Colmenares claimed that the absence or suspension of an investigation would damage families seeking reparations.
“In fact, any suspension of the investigation, on the contrary, has inimical implications on the victims and witnesses as they have been waiting for justice since their kin were ruthlessly and arrogantly murdered more than six years ago,” he said.
Last June 2021, outgoing ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda asked the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber to authorize an investigation of Duterte’s drug war because information gathered by her office showed there is reason to believe that state actors have killed thousands of civilians under the war against illegal drugs. It was eventually authorized by the Pre-Trial Chamber.
But the Duterte administration maintained that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the Philippines since the country has already withdrawn from the Rome Statute – the treaty that created the ICC – since 2018.
Bensouda and her successor Karim Khan, on the other hand, still asserted the ICC’s authority stressing that the events brought before them happened when the Philippines was still part of the Rome Statute.
This is not the first time that the government appealed for the suspension of ICC’s drug war probe. In November 2021, the ICC granted the government’s bid to suspend the investigation on the premise that local authorities are working to review questionable drug war cases.
It was resumed just this January 2023, as the ICC was unsatisfied with the government’s investigations.
To date, there are only two drug war cases where police have been found guilty of murder: in the case of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos, and in the case of 19-year-old Carl Angelo Arnaiz and 14-year-old Reynaldo “Kulot” de Guzman.
Santos, who was not the target of the drug operation, was shot point-blank despite him being seen in a camera footage pleading for his life. His killers were convicted in November 2018.
Arnaiz and de Guzman’s bodies were found in different areas – Arnaiz in a funeral in Caloocan City, and de Guzman, in a creek in Nueva Ecija. Both were residents of Cainta, Rizal, and went out on the evening of August 18, 2017, just to buy snacks.
The police officers involved in the case of Arnaiz and de Guzman were convicted last March 13.