Relatives of people killed during the anti-drug operation participate in a healing protest in Manila on November 5, 2017. Catholic bishops on November 5 led thousands of Philippine worshippers in calling for an end to killings in President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war as they urged police and troops to stop the violence.
AFP/Noel Celis, File photo
Amnesty: ICC examination offers 'glimmer of hope' for drug killing victims
Audrey Morallo ( - February 9, 2018 - 5:07pm

MANILA, Philippines — An international rights watchdog on Friday lauded as “a crucial moment for justice and accountability” the initiation of a preliminary examination by a prosecutor of the International Criminal Court of drug-related extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

James Gomez, Amnesty International’s director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said that the announcement of international criminal law prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of a preliminary examination on whether allegations of extrajudicial killings against President Rodrigo Duterte were within its jurisdiction would provide a “glimmer of hope” to victims of the atrocities attributed to the Philippines’ war on drugs.

“Today's announcement marks a crucial moment for justice and accountability in the Philippines,” Gomez said.

“[It] offers a glimmer of hope to victims of the shocking atrocities committed in the government's so called 'war on drugs,” he added.

Amnesty International maintained that the crimes committed since Duterte assumed the presidency in June 2016 were tantamount to crimes against humanity.

Gomez also provided a justification that thousands of drug-related killings were within the purview of the International Criminal Court.

“Unfortunately, the Philippines authorities have shown themselves both unwilling and unable to bring the perpetrators to justice and the real hope for victims now lies with the ICC,” he said.

Bensouda, the ICC criminal prosecutor, clarified that the examination she had opened was not yet an investigation. She said that it was a process that would assess available information to determine if there was reasonable basis to pursue a probe under the Rome Statute, to which the Philippines is a party.

She said that she would consider the issues of jurisdiction, admissibility and the interest of justice in her initial examination for which she did not give a specific timeline.

Duterte’s office, meanwhile, welcomed the move by the ICC prosecutor and expressed confidence that the examination would not proceed to the next stage.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that the brutal campaign against illegal drugs was a “lawful legitimate police operation” which could not be described as an attack on a civilian population.

The initial examination stemmed from the communication submitted by lawyer Jude Sabio to the ICC accusing Duterte of committing mass murder.

Later on, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and Rep. Gary Alejano (Magdalo) submitted a supplemental communication to the document submitted by Sabio, who was the lawyer of a self-confessed hitman supposedly hired by Duterte when he was still mayor of Davao City.

Gomez, the Amnesty International director, said that the announcement of the ICC prosecutor should serve as a warning to leaders around the world that those who would incite crimes against humanity such as murder would be investigated under international law and be held accountable.

Duterte campaigned and won the presidency in 2016 on a brutal anti-drug and anti-crime platform. He has since been accused of perpetrating abuses and the deaths of thousands of illegal drug users and peddlers, many of whom belonged to the urban poor.

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