INTERNATIONAL Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Karim Khan has asked the Philippine government to provide them proof of the State’s ongoing investigation on the killings related to the administration's war against illegal drugs.

“The Office of the Prosecutor takes the view that a State requesting deferral under article 18(2) of the Rome Statute must provide information concerning its investigations to support its request,” Khan said in a statement on Tuesday, November 23.

"The Prosecutor will, in the coming days, request the Philippines to provide substantiating information regarding the investigations and proceedings referenced in its Deferral Request. The Office of the Prosecutor will request that such information be provided promptly, as envisaged by Article 18 of the Rome Statute and as necessary to ensure that there is no impunity for Rome Statute crimes," he added.

Khan said information must consist of “tangible evidence, of probative value and a sufficient degree of specificity, demonstrating that concrete and progressive investigative steps have been or are currently being undertaken to ascertain the responsibility of persons for alleged conduct falling within the scope of the authorized ICC investigation.”

On November 10, the Philippine government, through its ambassador to the Netherlands, Eduardo Malaya, requested the ICC to defer its investigation and proceedings on alleged crimes against humanity of murder in the country amid the administration’s crackdown on illegal drugs.

Malaya noted that the government is already looking into the allegations of abuses amid the implementation of the drug war.

But Kahn said the deferral may have a “specific or partial effect” rather than a blanket or general effect in its investigation.

He said the ICC will continue its analysis of information already in its possession and any new information it may receive from third parties.

“As this process unfolds, the Office will continue to be particularly attentive to the security, safety and wellbeing of victims and witnesses, and the protections and measures foreseen under the Rome Statute in this regard, including potential recourse to article 70 of the Statute where warranted,” said Khan.

“The Prosecutor welcomes the willingness of the Republic of the Philippines to engage with the Office of the Prosecutor, and hopes that this engagement will serve as the foundation for effective communication and cooperation in the future. The effective implementation of the Rome Statute is a responsibility shared between the ICC and States, including State Parties to the Rome Statute and other States where the ICC has jurisdiction, such as the Philippines,” he added.

On September 15, the ICC granted the request of former ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to pursue the conduct of investigation on the alleged cases of crime against humanity in the Philippines in line with the administration’s crackdown on illegal drugs.

It said the chamber found that the “specific legal element of the crime against humanity of murder” has been met amid the killings committed in the country between July 1, 2016, since President Rodrigo Duterte took office, and March 16, 2019, the day the President ordered the withdrawal of the country’s membership from the Rome Statute.

Duterte had repeatedly maintained his government will not cooperate in the investigation.

The ICC earlier said of the 204 victims representations submitted to them on behalf of around 1,530 individual victims and 1,050 families, 194 wants an investigation conducted by the international body.

On November 19, the ICC announced the temporary suspension of the investigation.

Earlier, the Department of Justice (DOJ) noted irregularities in the illegal drugs operations of the police that resulted in the killing of 52 alleged drug personalities.

Majority of the 52 cases were buy-bust operations, in which police involved claimed to have turned into a shootout after the subjects fought it and resisted arrest.

It was, however, noted that in six cases, the suspects were negative for the presence of gunpowder, which suggests they did not fire shots and that the police lied.

The DOJ said it is reviewing 300 more cases of drug war killings.

As of September 30, the government said 6,201 alleged drug personalities were killed since the drug war started in July of 2016, while 311,686 were arrested. (SunStar Philippines)