PRESIDENT Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is urged to allow the International Criminal Court to resume the investigation into the drug war of his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte amid a move by the government to appeal the ICC decision.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said in a statement on Saturday that the President should view the investigation as an opportunity to fulfill his commitment in ensuring a “high-level of accountability” toward human rights issues during his term.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) Philippines senior researcher Carlos Conde, in a separate statement late Friday, said Marcos should “reverse his predecessor’s stance and actively cooperate with the ICC investigation to demonstrate his government is sincere when it says it values accountability and human rights and to bring drug war victims and their families closer to achieving a measure of justice.”

Kristina Conti of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) Assisting Counsel for Victims, in a television interview on Saturday, said the Philippine government needs to “acknowledge its responsibility and recognize the ICC’s intervention because the investigation was started at the time before the Philippines withdrew its membership in March 2019.”

Conti said the Philippines has been a member of the ICC from 2011 to 2019.

In a radio interview, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said the reason for the withdrawal was because there was a case but “the jurisdiction continues.”

He called on the government to “be open and to follow international rules and show that there are no violations.”

For his part, Albay First District Rep. Edcel Lagman said the Philippines, as a legitimate member of the world community, must accede to the jurisdiction of the prosecutors of the ICC because “the rule of law is not limited to parochial confines. It must conform to the world order.”


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PH to appeal

But Menardo Guevarra, the chief lawyer for the President, told Agence France-Presse that the government would “exhaust our legal remedies, more particularly elevating the matter to the ICC appeals chamber.”

Solicitor General Guevarra and Justice Secretary Crispin Remulla both said Manila, instead of the ICC, should have jurisdiction over alleged drug war crimes.

“They are insulting us,” Remulla told reporters.

“I will not stand for any of these antics that will tend to question our sovereignty, our status as a sovereign country,” he said.

MGen, Valeriano de Leon, Philippine police operations chief, vowed the anti-drug crackdown would continue, calling Duterte an “inspiration.”

Former Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said in a statement that Duterte “would never subject himself under the legal jurisdiction of any foreign body because it is an insult to the competence and impartiality of our functioning criminal justice system” but added that “he would humbly submit to the prosecution and judgment of any local court.”

Former president Duterte, who initiated the drug war, pulled the Philippines out of the ICC in 2019, a year after the Hague-based tribunal began a preliminary investigation into the crackdown.

The ICC launched a formal inquiry in September 2021, only to suspend it two months later after Manila said it was re-examining several hundred cases of drug operations that led to deaths at the hands of police, hitmen and vigilantes. The ICC prosecutor later asked to reopen the inquiry in June 2022.

Announcing the resumption of its investigation on Thursday, the ICC said its pre-trial chamber was “not satisfied that the Philippines is undertaking relevant investigations that would warrant a deferral of the court’s investigations.”


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‘Only credible avenue’

Officially, 6,181 people were killed in Duterte’s “war on drugs,” which began in 2016, but rights groups say that up to 30,000 may have died, some innocent victims, and that corruption was rife among security forces that acted with impunity.

NUPL Chairman Edre Olalia told AFP the ICC announcement “validates” the assertions of the slain suspects’ kin that “there are no adequate and effective measures to achieve concrete justice for them on the ground… despite official claims to the contrary.”

Only three police officers have been convicted of unlawful drug war killings, while another was jailed in November last year for planting evidence and torturing two teenagers killed at the height of the crackdown.

“The ICC investigation in the Philippines is the only credible avenue for justice for the victims and their families of former President Rodrigo Duterte’s murderous ‘war on drugs’,” HRW Asia deputy director Phil Robertson said in a statement.

Renato Reyes, a senior leader of the left-wing group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Nationalist Alliance), urged Marcos in a statement to cooperate with the ICC probe “so that justice can be rendered to the thousands of victims of Duterte’s failed drug war.”