The Philippine government under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. could be in a dilemma right now. Would the President take back what he had said that the country will not rejoin the Internatonal Criminal Court (ICC) and allow the external body’s investigators to conduct their inquiry on the bloody drug war of former President Rodrigo Duterte? If it would allow the ICC to conduct an investigation, the current administration could be accused of being complicit in undermining the country’s sovereignty.

Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, the former police chief under Duterte and the drug war’s chief architect, has described the ICC’s decision to reopen its probe as an affront to the country’s sovereignty. Dictionary definition of sovereignty says that is the authority of a state to govern itself and be free from external control.

Duterte had withdrawn the Philippines’ membership in the ICC before his term ended in 2022. Then Marcos later issued a statement that the Philippines would not rejoin the ICC, saying the government was already conducting its own probe.

Duterte’s drug war has been a controversial issue, with numerous human rights violations being reported.

The ICC’s decision to reopen its investigation on Duterte’s drug war could be indeed perceived as an infringement of the Philippines’ sovereignty, as it suggests that the country’s justice system is unable to investigate and prosecute human rights violations.

The Philippines has its own legal system to handle such cases, and allowing an external body to intervene could be seen as a sign of weakness.

However, it is widely recognized that the Philippines faces significant challenges in promoting human rights and ensuring accountability for human rights violations, including in the context of the drug war.

International human rights groups have reported widespread human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, in the course of the drug war, and the victims and their families have called for accountability.

As it is also widely known that it would take years to attain justice in the Philippines, an impartial investigation by an independent body like the ICC is good news for the drug war victims’ families.

If the Philippine government would not allow the ICC investigators to conduct their probe, the country could be seen as a pariah in the international community.