Palace 'exasperated' at ICC's request to continue Duterte's drug war probe

Angelica Y. Yang - Philstar.com
Palace 'exasperated' at ICC's request to continue Duterte's drug war probe
File photo shows police investigating the death of a victim of the Duterte government's so-called war on drugs.
AFP / Noel Celis, file

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang said Saturday that it is "exasperated" over the request of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Karim Khan to resume the investigation into President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war.

In a statement issued in The Hague, Khan formally asked judges of the pre-trial chamber to move forward in the probe of Duterte's war on drugs. 

Khan said that the Justice department panel's efforts to look into the killings was merely an administrative "desk review", saying that it "does not constitute investigative activity and does not justify deferral of the Court's investigation." 

He also said the Philippine government has failed to show that it has investigated several cases of killings in police operations.

On Saturday, acting presidential spokesperson Martin Andanar said: "For the nth time, we express exasperation on the latest request of the ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan."

In a statement, he said that the Duterte administration has conducted investigations of "all deaths that have arisen from lawful drug enforcement operations", which shows what he called transparency. 

"Let these efforts of the Philippine government run their course; after all reciprocity is a key principle in the methods of work of the ICC. To veer away from this principle will only reveal the politicization that has infiltrated the ICC’s ranks," Andanar added. 

In November 2021, the ICC halted its investigation into Duterte's war on drugs after the Philippine government asked to defer its probe on the alleged crimes against humanity committed between July 1, 2016 and March 16, 2019. 

'Booster shot for accountability'

Human rights groups welcomed the office of the prosecutor's request to resume probes into the drug war killings. 

Maria Elena Vignoli, senior counsel of the Human Rights Watch, said Saturday that Khan's request to resume the investigation is a "booster shot for accountability."

"The government has not been serious about justice for these crimes while the victims’ families grieve without redress and those responsible face no consequences," she said in a statement. 

Another human rights group Karapatan urged the ICC's pre-trial chamber to heed Khan's request. 

"Mr. Khan’s statement affirms the observations and reports of kin and supporters of victims of extrajudicial killings in the sham drug war - that there have been no meaningful steps by the Duterte administration to investigate and obtain justice for the victims and that domestic mechanisms have failed to prosecute those who committed, incited and ordered the said crimes," Karapatan said on Saturday. 

Separately, Amnesty International Philippines Director Butch Olano called on the incoming administration to cooperate with the investigation and make sure that the families of victims and witnesses are safe. 

"We also call for the Office of the Prosecutor to expedite its investigation as quickly as possible. Six years on from the start of the “war on drugs”, families of victims are another step closer to some form of justice," Olano said. 

Official government data as of December 2021 showed that 6,221 people have died during the anti-drug operations of state agents. Local and international human rights groups have said that the death toll may be closer to 30,000.

The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, which refers to real-time data on political violence and protest around the world, earlier reported in November 2021 that the civilian fatalities from the Philippines' war on drugs are at least 25% higher than official figures. 

Duterte's landslide victory for the presidency in 2016 was built on ending drugs and criminality during the first six months of his term, among others. Later on, he asked for a six-month extension which he failed to meet. 

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