Rights groups urge lawmakers to support resolutions on ICC probe

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Rights groups urge lawmakers to support resolutions on ICC probe
Former president Rodrigo Duterte Presidential.
Photo / Roemari Lismonero

MANILA, Philippines — Human rights organizations called on the House of Representatives to support resolutions urging the government to cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s investigation into alleged crimes against humanity committed in the anti-illegal drugs campaign of former President Rodrigo Duterte. 

Rights watchdogs welcomed House Resolution 1477 authored by human rights panel chair Rep. Benny Abante (Manila) and Rep. Ramon Rodrigo Gutierrez (1-Rider Party-list), which urges President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to cooperate with the probe of The Hague-based tribunal. 

A similar resolution was earlier filed by the Makabayan bloc.

Groups including Karapatan, Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court, and Human Rights Watch called on other members of the lower chamber to support the resolutions. 

“These resolutions are expressions of widespread public sentiment against the rampant killings and other human rights violations related to the war on drugs and the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators and their highly placed enablers like Duterte and his subalterns led by former PNP chief Bato dela Rosa,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said. 

Reacting to the filing of Resolution 1477, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said the recommendation to cooperate with the ICC needs further study to determine its merits.

A House resolution is a legislative document that expresses the position, opinion, or intent of the House on an issue. Adopted resolutions do not have the force of law but serve as a formal declaration of the House’s stance.

‘Change of heart’

Bryony Lau, HRW’s deputy Asia director, said the lawmakers “are taking a firm and principled stand for accountability.”

PCICC co-chairperson Aurora Parong also stressed that the “change of heart towards justice” is “a step in the right direction, and may very well serve as a deterrent to future crimes.”

“It is the Philippine government’s obligation to ensure remedies and to fulfill the rights of the victims. The grieving families should suffer no more in their long wait. They should not be deprived of their rights to remedy, reparations and justice,” she said. 

Parong urged the Senate to initiate a similar resolution to strengthen and push forward its effort for investigation.

Abante’s co-authorship of the resolution marks the first time that a present member of the House majority bloc has called on the lower chamber to support the ICC investigation into the killings related to the “war on drugs” and the “Davao Death Squad” when Duterte was the mayor of the southern Philippine city.

Abante is a member of the National Unity Party, making him a party mate of Rep. Paolo Duterte. 

Judges in the ICC appeals chamber rejected in July the appeal of the Philippines to stop the probe, allowing Prosecutor Karim Khan to continue with his investigation. 

Officially, 6,252 people were killed in Duterte's "war on drugs." But rights groups say that up to 30,000 may have been killed—some innocent victims—and that corruption was rife among security forces that acted with impunity.

Set up in 2002 to probe the world’s worst crimes, the ICC is a “court of last resort” and steps in and exercises jurisdiction only if countries are unwilling or unable to prosecute offenders.

The Philippine government insists that local courts are functioning well and can exercise jurisdiction over any complaints.

There were only two convictions of law enforcers involved in the "drug war"—the murder of 17-year-old Kian Delos Santos and in the case of 19-year-old Carl Arnaiz and 14-year-old Reynaldo “Kulot” de Guzman. — with report from Cristina Chi

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