President Rodrigo Duterte sings a song after leading the Christmas tree-lighting ceremony of the Office of the President at the Kalayaan Grounds in Malacañang on Dec. 3, 2018.
Presidential Photo/Toto Lozano
ICC continues initial review of Duterte, drug war despite Philippine withdrawal
Gaea Katreena Cabico ( - December 6, 2018 - 12:52pm

MANILA, Philippines (Update 2, 1:52 p.m.) — The International Criminal Court said it will continue to assess the communications into President Rodrigo Duterte’s alleged crimes against humanity despite the Philippine government’s withdrawal of its ratification from the Rome Statute.

The ICC said this in an annual report on its preliminary examination activities released December 5—10 months after ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda opened a preliminary examination into the situation in the Philippines. Examination is not the same as an investigation.

The ICC said the Office of the Prosecutor has been conducting a thorough factual and legal assessment of the information available in order to reach a reasonable basis to believe that the alleged crimes fall within the jurisdiction of the court. 

“The office has continued to gather, receive and review information available from a wide range of sources on the crimes allegedly committed in the context of the ‘war on drugs’ in the Philippines,” it said. 

The ICC, moreover, said that any alleged crimes occurring in the future in the context of the same situation could be added in the office’s analysis.

“The office has further closely followed relevant developments in the Philippines and will continue to do so,” it said. 

A total of 52 communications on the situation in the Philippines have been sent to the ICC, it said. These include the communications filed by lawyer Jude Sabio backed by a supplemental communication by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and Rep. Gary Alejano (Magdalo party-list) in 2017 and the families of alleged victims of extrajudicial killings last August. 

These communications alleged that Duterte and other senior government officials promoted and encouraged the killings of suspected drug users and dealers. 

The Philippine National Police has counted at least 22,000 deaths under inquiry since the president launched the war on drugs in 2016. Official government data showed that more than 4,900 “drug personalities” have been killed in anti-narcotics operations.

ICC maintains jurisdiction

In the same annual report, the Hague-based court insisted that “it retains jurisdiction with respect to alleged crimes that have occurred in the Philippines during the period when it was a state party to the statute.”

Last March, the administration formally sent the Philippines’ letter of withdrawal from the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the Hague-based tribunal. The government cited “outrageous” attacks on him and the supposedly illegal attempt by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to place him under the Hague-based court’s jurisdiction as reasons for the country’s withdrawal.

But the Philippines remains a party to the Rome Statue as the withdrawal will only take effect a year after the date of receipt of the notification. 

In August, the Supreme Court held oral arguments on the consolidated petitions challenging the country’s exit from the international tribunal. 

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