MANILA, Philippines — The victims of the government’s bloody war on drugs “overwhelmingly” support the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor’s request to conduct a full-blown investigation of drug war killings in the Philippines and its perpetrators for alleged crimes against humanity, the ICC said yesterday.
“The representations received overwhelmingly support the OTP (Office of the Prosecutor) request. They also bring forward the victims’ views and concerns on the OTP request and on other related matters, including justice, the ICC, the potential scope of an investigation and the impact the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ has on victims’ lives and their society,” the ICC said in a statement.
The ICC said it received 204 victim representations submitted on behalf of approximately 1,530 individual victims and 1,050 families.
On Aug. 27, 2021, the ICC Registry transmitted the representations to Pre-Trial Chamber together with a report.
“The VPRS (Victims Participation and Reparations Section) found that victims overwhelmingly support an investigation by the ICC prosecutor into all crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the context of the so called WoD (War on Drugs) in the Philippines between 1 November 2011 and 17 March 2019,” the ICC Registry Report on the victim’s representations said.
The ICC judges will carefully analyze all information received and will issue their decision on the OTP request in due time.
The ICC said 94 percent of submissions indicated victims want the ICC prosecutor to investigate crimes committed in the context of the war on drugs.
The main motivating factors invoked are: genuine investigation by an impartial international court; identifying and bringing the perpetrators to justice; ending impunity; preventing future crimes; knowing the truth about what happened to victims and clearing their names of false accusations; allowing for victims’ voices to be heard.
Murder tops the list of crimes reported by the victims to the ICC.
The VPRS notes that the following potential crimes against humanity, allegedly committed in the Philippines in the context of the war on drugs, were reported: murder; attempted murder; imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty; rape and other forms of sexual violence; enforced disappearance of persons, torture and other inhumane acts.
The crimes reported were allegedly committed by the police and unidentified men usually wearing civilian clothes, bonnets, masks and who, in a number of cases, rode in tandem on motorcycles when committing the alleged crimes.
The types of harm reported by both direct and indirect victims include physical, psychological, material, social harm, as well as substantial impairment of fundamental rights.
With “sufficient” and “reasonable” basis, former ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda requested authorization to proceed with the investigation of Duterte for crimes against humanity and killings in the Philippines in connection with his bloody war on drugs.
The Philippines called Bensouda’s request to open an investigation on the situation in the country “regrettable,” saying the outgoing prosecutor’s move is a blatant violation of the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the ICC.
The VPRS notes that a series of other issues and concerns were raised in the victim representations, including concerns about the effectiveness of the Filipino judicial system and the ability and willingness to investigate war on drugs-related crimes; request for expeditious proceedings; reparations for victims; trauma and stigma related to the war on drugs; it is an alleged war against “the poor and the innocent;” impact of the war on drugs on children and the cultural and social impact of the war on drugs.
The report also details the circumstances in which the process took place with a focus on the challenges and obstacles encountered.
On July 21, 2021, the Supreme Court of the Philippines made public its ruling that the ICC retains jurisdiction “over any and all acts committed by government actors until March 17, 2019. The withdrawal from the Rome Statute does not affect the liabilities of individuals charged before the ICC for acts committed up to this date.”
However, the government’s position towards the ICC remained unchanged and it was reiterated that the Philippines would not cooperate with the Court in case of a potential ICC investigation.
Justice for desaparecidos
The Families of the Disappeared for Justice – or Desaparecidos – denounced the Duterte government for “amplifying the prevailing culture of impunity” in the country.
This developed as the group yesterday commemorated the International Day of the Disappeared.
In a statement, Erlinda Cadapan, Desaparecidos national chair and mother of missing UP student Sherlyn Cadapan, said they are pained that enforced disappearances continue to be perpetrated by the current regime. – Rhodina Villanueva, Evelyn Macairan, Alexis Romero