HUMAN rights organizations called on lawmakers to support the resolutions pending in Congress urging President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in its bid to investigate the “bloody” anti-drug war campaign of former president Rodrigo Duterte, including his earlier mayoralty terms in Davao City.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) deputy Asia director Bryony Lau said “Filipino lawmakers urging the Marcos administration to cooperate with the International Criminal Court are taking a firm and principled stand for accountability.”
“More lawmakers should support the House resolution. The Marcos government should do right by the victims of the ‘war on drugs’ and the ‘Davao Death Squad’ and assist the ICC investigation into alleged crimes against humanity,” Lau added.
Cristina Palabay, the secretary general of the human rights alliance Karapatan, said that the “government’s recommitment to the Rome Statute and the ICC is long overdue.:
“This should happen now. At the same time, accountability should be sought not only for the crimes against humanity of Duterte and others. There needs to be accountability for the past and present administration,” Palabay said in a report from Catholic news site UCA News.
Earlier, Makabayan lawmakers France Castro, Arlene Brosas Raoul Danniel Manuel filed House Resolution No. 1393 to call for government support for the ICC probe against Duterte.
Congressional Human Rights Committee chairman Congressman Bienvenido Abante also filed Resolution No. 1477 for similar purposes.
“These resolutions are expressions of widespread public sentiment against the rampant killings and other human rights violations related to the war on drugs and the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators and their highly placed enablers like Duterte and his subalterns led by former Philippine National Police chief Bato dela Rosa,” said Palabay in a separate statement.
“Given the failure of domestic redress mechanisms, the ongoing ICC investigation provides a glimpse of hope to victims of the anti-drug war and their families in their quest for justice and accountability,” she added.
Redemptorist priest Amado Picardal, a vocal critic of Duterte’s violent crackdown on drugs, said that the lawmakers’ move “is a welcome development and in line with the 2021 Supreme Court Ruling that the Philippines is under obligation to cooperate in the ICC investigation.”
“If this resolution passes and if President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. allows the ICC to come in, this will be a good sign that the government is serious in holding accountable those responsible for mass murder and crime against humanity,” added Picardal.
Picardal's documentation on the alleged extra judicial killings in Davao was included in the information sent to the ICC in 2016.
Asked about his comments on the resolution filed by some lawmakers, President Marcos Jr. said “this is not unusual.”
“It’s really a sense of the House resolution and the sense --- they are just expressing or manifesting the sense of the House that perhaps it’s time to allow or to cooperate with the ICC investigation. But as I have always said, there are still some problems in terms of jurisdiction and sovereignty. Now, if you can solve those problems then that would be something else…,” Marcos told reporters in a press briefing in Manila on Friday.
“Because if you’re talking about the sovereign --- jurisdiction of the ICC, especially since we have withdrawn from the Rome statute few years back, that brings into question, whether or not this is actually possible. There is also a question: Should we return under the fold of the ICC? So, that’s again under study. So, we’ll just keep looking at it and see what our options are,” the president added.
Amid the lawmakers’ resolutions, Vice President Sara Duterte, the daughter of the erstwhile firebrand president, maintained that "to allow ICC prosecutors to investigate alleged crimes that are now under the exclusive jurisdiction of our prosecutors and our Courts is not only patently unconstitutional but effectively belittles and degrades our legal institutions.”
“Let us not insult and embarrass our courts by showing the world that we believe that foreigners are the only ones who have the ability to give justice to our own country,” the vice president said in Filipino.
The ICC ceased to have jurisdiction over the Philippines upon the effectivity of the country’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute on March 17, 2019.
Human rights groups claimed that over 20,000 people have been killed during Duterte’s “drug war” policy. (SunStar Philippines)