ICC notes domestic PHL proceedings only concern low-ranking perpetrators

ICC notes domestic PHL proceedings only concern low-ranking perpetrators
FILE - An alleged drug dealer is handcuffed after a drug buy bust operation conducted by policemen where they caught this 18 year old boy selling marijuana in Manila on May 12, 2018. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs has left nearly 4,000 drug suspects dead and seen human rights groups claim he was responsible for a crime against humanity. The anti-drugs campaign enjoys popular support while the fiery-tongued Duterte has rejected any criticism of his human rights record.
AFP / Noel Celis

MANILA, Philippines — The International Criminal Court has found that the Philippine government’s domestic investigation into deadly “war on drugs” operations is insufficient as it moved to order the resumption of prosecution probe into Manila.

The Pre-Trial Chamber, a judicial branch under the ICC, found that “domestic proceedings in the Philippines thus do not sufficiently mirror the expected scope of the Court’s investigation, since they only address the physical, low-ranking perpetrators and at present do not extend to any high-ranking officials.”

These findings formed part of the basis for the ICC to proceed full steam ahead with investigating alleged crimes against humanity committed in the drug war of former President Rodrigo Duterte.

The international court temporarily suspended its probe into the war on drugs in November 2021 at the Philippine government’s request, citing the Department of Justice-led investigation into "war on drugs" operations that resulted in deaths. 

But the ICC Chamber pointed out that the Philippine government did not contest its prosecution’s suggestion that it failed to inquire into any criminality pattern or systematic nature of crimes in the “war on drugs” killings.

It also noted that the cases cited by Manila only concern the accountability of low-ranking police officers.

“[T]he Chamber observes that given the Court’s role and purpose, and the fact that the authorised investigation concerns alleged crimes against humanity, high-ranking officials are expected to be the investigation’s focus,” it pointed out.

The ICC also noted that at the time, the DOJ panel had referred to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 302 drug-related cases. Of this number, 52 cases involved those who allegedly died from resisting arrest (“nanlaban cases”) while 250 involved the deaths of alleged suspects.

In its response to the ICC, the Philippines also did not explain how the DOJ could sufficiently review and investigate these cases apart from referring these to the NBI for investigation, the international body added.

ICC also pointed out that while the Philippines did compile evidence of lapses in police and forensic procedures during anti-illegal drugs operations, these did not include whether “criminal investigations and prosecutions were initiated against the police officers involved in the killings.”

“Moreover, the number of cases reviewed by the DOJ Panel (namely, 302) is very low when compared with the estimated number of killings that allegedly occurred in the context of ‘war on drugs’,” the international court added.

The ICC also said: “The Chamber is therefore not satisfied that the Philippines is undertaking relevant investigations, or is making a real or genuine effort to carry out such investigations and any subsequent criminal prosecutions, that would warrant a deferral of the Court’s investigations.” — Cristina Chi and Kristine Joy Patag

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