NUPL: Drug war victims, families ready to cooperate with ICC probe
MANILA, Philippines — The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) on Tuesday said that victims of the extrajudicial killings during the Duterte administration’s bloody war on illegal drugs are ready to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The NUPL made the pronouncement after the ICC earlier denied the Philippine government’s appeal to stop its investigation into former President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial war against drugs.
“Victims of the drug-war killings and their advocates are ready to cooperate with the investigation of the ICC as it pushes forward,” said NUPL in a statement.
“Today’s decision by the Appeals Chamber of the ICC built confidence with those victimized by the widespread and systematic killings under the “war on drugs” of the Duterte administration,” it added.
According to NUPL, the victims intend to communicate with the Office of the Prosecutor, as well as the Office of the Public Counsel for Victims, and have sought to be represented by an independent legal representative as well.
“Patuloy po kaming magsasalita, patuloy po kaming maghahanap ng hustisya, patuloy po kaming lalaban! Hindi na president si Duterte pero tuloy-tuloy pa rin ang patayan. At kami na nga ang naagrabyado, bakit kami ang mangingimi o mahihiya?” Amy Jane Lee of Rise Up said in the same statement speaking for families of victims.
(We will continue to speak, we will continue to seek justice, we will continue to fight! Duterte is no longer president but the killing continues. We are the ones who have been disadvantaged, so why should we be the ones to feel awkward or ashamed?)
“Sa totoo, hindi mapapawi yung sakit ng pagkawala dahil lang sa sinabi ngayon ng ICC. Mapapawi ito ng panahon, ng pagkilala at pagpapakumbaba ng mga umagrabyado, at ng pagpapanagot sa may sala,” she added.
(In truth, the pain of loss will not be relieved just because of what the ICC said today. It will be erased by time, by recognition and humility of those who are aggrieved, and by holding the one at fault accountable.)
According to NUPL, the ICC’s decision to deny the appeal “guarded hope in the court” for the families who lost loved ones under the onslaught of killings during Duterte’s leadership had guarded hope in the court.
Families who are engaging the ICC then urged other victims and families to come forward, as well as Churches and other civil society organizations to assist families in gathering documents or simply writing down the facts of their case to be used in the investigation, which can be submitted confidentially.
They were also invited to join victim advocacy groups like Rise Up for Life and for Rights.
Meanwhile, Bayan Muna partylist chair Neri Colmenares noted ICC’s decision as a “significant step towards achieving justice for the victims and their families.”
“The ICC decision is a major blow against impunity and injustice,” Colmenares, who also served as a co-counsel for some of the victims’ families, said.
“Now, the day of reckoning for President Duterte and his PNP (Philippine National Police_ subordinates starts. The families will be so happy that justice for their sons, daughters, and loved ones brutally murdered has a chance to be realized,” he added.
Colmenares then emphasized the importance of ICC’s investigation and the potential trial of Duterte.
“We will continue the search for justice during the investigation and hopefully the trial of President Duterte. He could potentially become the first Asian leader to be tried in the ICC.”
He then vowed that the Bayan Muna partylist, along with other progressive groups, will continue to support the ICC investigation and ensure that the voices of the victims are heard.
Rights groups laud ICC decision to continue probe
Meanwhile, in a separate statement, human rights advocates coalition In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDefend) said that the ICC decision proves that “justice cannot wait.”
“The Court has clearly considered the lack of domestic recourse for the victims and the suffering of their grieving families, who are still denied recognition and reparation in their own country,” it added.
The coalition then called on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to cooperate with the ICC “and end impunity for these serious crimes.”
“Now that international criminal justice is running its course, let this administration’s response be the return to the fold of the law by re-ratifying the Rome Statute. Let our people gain from this historic experience of exacting accountability for crimes of global concern, so that we can send this message to all future tyrants: justice will be served, and human rights will be protected,” it added.
It pointed how Marcos’ unlawful arrests, enforced disappearances, torture, sexual assault, harassment and intimidation resulting from anti-drug operations even during Marcos’ term, adding that refusing to recoginze the government’s failure to protect Filipinos’ rights merely “rack[s] up [Marcos’] own tally of victims and his own criminal culpability in these crimes.”
Rights group Karapatan, for its part, also welcomed the ICC’s decision, saying that it is “high time that the ICC investigation proceeds without a hitch” to achieve justice and accountability for victims of Duterte’s bloody drug war.
It pointed out the country’s need for international mechanisms such as the ICC as all domestic investigation mechanisms “are ineffective and only meant to window-dress the current dire human rights situation.”