Anti-drug war victims seek resumption of ICC probe on EJKs | Inquirer News

Anti-drug war victims seek resumption of ICC probe on EJKs

/ 01:51 PM May 25, 2023

Relatives of victims of extrajudicial killings attributed to the Duterte administration’s war on drugs gather at Caritas Manila’s office in Pandacan, Manila, on All Saints’ Day in 2017

OF TEARS AND ‘TOKHANG’ Relatives of victims of extrajudicial killings attributed to the Duterte administration’s war on drugs gather at Caritas Manila’s office in Pandacan, Manila, on All Saints’ Day in 2017. —RICHARD A. REYES

MANILA, Philippines— Persons who say they were victims of former President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on illegal drugs and their kin called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to resume its investigation into alleged extra-judicial killings, abuses and other crimes committed during his term.

In the accounts collated by the ICC Registry’s Victims Participation and Reparations Section (VPRS), these individuals had told the court that justice for the anti-drug war victims remains “elusive.”


They added the situation reflects the more extensive “fragility” of the Philippine judicial system.

“The situation in the Philippines has not materially improved for the victims represented. If any, gains have been isolated and marginal,” asserted the complainants in a May 22, 2023, report presented by the VPRS.

“Even attempts to obtain the recognition that the killings were extra-legal have, unfortunately, been met with resistance from state institutions,” the ICC section observed.

VPRS released its 21-page report after its consultation process resulted in the representations of five victims at the ICC on behalf of 350 individuals and 165 families.

The statements were made in response to reports that the ICC’s pre-trial chamber failed to establish “sufficient gravity” to pursue further investigation into the anti-drug war.

READ: Gov’t appeals ICC ruling on drug war probe 


The latest government data tag the number of drug-related police killings at 6,525 as of May 2022.

However, human rights groups estimate the number may go as high as 30,000.

The figure supposedly included extra-judicial killings.

No chance of justice within the country

The drug war victims said that the ICC probe remains their one real chance at attaining accountability and reparations from the campaign’s implementers, asserting that their “experience with the local justice system confirms the continued lack of investigations and prosecutions of their cases.”

“I think that there are many who cannot go to court because, firstly, we won’t be going to court here in the Philippines. Because we have no trust,” said the victims.

“The continuation of the process before the International Criminal Court remains a plausible means of seeking the justice that they currently cannot find in this country,” they added.

According to the VPRS report, victims of rights violations in the country have been forced to navigate within a “prevalent climate of fear and impunity,” making immediate rights remedies inaccessible to them.

“The lack of a government inquiry into the widespread killings and abuses significantly impacts the rights of victims, and in particular, denying them the opportunity to identify, prosecute, and punish the perpetrators of these grave crimes against humanity,” read one victim’s quote.

The report also stressed that documentation remains a key issue in drug war justice, as suspect police officials have refused to authenticate reports and produce comprehensive records on campaign operations.

“Missing documents do point to administrative liability, but the lack of information limits prosecution,” quoted the VPRS.

Exploited grief

Relatives of several victims also claimed that police personnel would charge them exorbitant amounts to have their kin autopsied or properly buried.

One said that a funeral home demanded P35,000 to bury their son, who was killed in a drug operation. Unable to pay the amount, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) asked them to sign a waiver falsifying the cause of death.

“The NBI asked me to sign a waiver that said the cause of death of my son was [redacted] and not because of gunshots. Of course, I could not think straight then. I just want to get my son’s cadaver. I just signed. I did not know it would be like that. That it would be a serious issue. That it would be difficult for me afterward, until now,” they said, as quoted in VPRS’ report.

READ: Fortun: Autopsy of drug war victims uncovers falsified info 

Another one was allegedly charged P50,000 by a scene of the crime operative for her husband’s autopsy. As the amount was out of reach for the victim, her spouse was not autopsied, and no investigation on his cause of death was pursued. Adding salt to the wound, the woman claimed she was charged an additional P5,000 to “bring her husband home.”

Victims added that another symptom of the Philippines’ “fraught” justice system is the promotion of similar alleged perpetrators in place of accountability.

“There are cases wherein the perpetrators of the human rights violation got promoted from office instead of facing internal investigation especially when death occurs in the course of a legitimate police or law enforcement operation,” they stressed.

“Even if we are poor, we will not be bribed. What we seek is for justice to be served,” asserted the victims.

Continued inaction under Marcos

The victims raised that the violent drug war campaign has continued under the current President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., denouncing their continued deprivation of justice at the domestic level.

“In their submission, no investigations or prosecutions are being conducted into alleged WoD related crimes committed under the former administration or the current one,” said the VPRS.

READ: PNP: 46 killed in drug war under Marcos ‘very minimal’ 

One victim recounted that authorities “laughed” when they and other victims approached them for remedies in July and August, a few months after the presidential elections in May.

“The authorities just laughed at us and said our relatives were killed during the Duterte administration, so the investigation is already closed and does not need to be opened unless it’s a new case because we already have a new government,” they said.

Victims have no faith that the Marcos administration is capable of securing their justice, as the president has not eschewed the drug campaign and “has made no overt action to prosecute or hold accountable any of the top officials or to review the policy.”

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TAGS: Drug war, EJK, ICC

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