Duterte slams ICC prosecutor’s plan to reopen Philippines drug war probe

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Rodrigo Duterte gestures during a cabinet meeting in Manila. File

Manolo B. Jara, Correspondent / Reuters

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s office said on Saturday it was “exasperated” with International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Karim Khan and his plan to resume an investigation into killings during the government’s crackdown on drugs.

Khan said on Friday that a deferral of the ICC’s probe sought by Manila was not warranted and the probe should recommence as quickly as possible.

On Saturday, Secretary Martin Andanar, the acting presidential spokesman, ignored the ICC report and repeated the cases filed against Duterte before the tribunal were “politically motivated.”

“Let the efforts of the Philippine government run their course,” Andanar said. “After all, reciprocity is a key principle in the methods of work at the ICC. To veer away from the principle will only reveal the politicalisation that has infiltrated the ICC ranks,” he said.

Andanar’s statement reflected the stand of Duterte that the cases filed against him and several other officials were handiwork of his political opponents and critics to embarrass him. As a result, Duterte ordered the country’s withdrawal from the ICC.

Last September ICC judges approved an investigation into the campaign in which thousands of suspected drug peddlers have died. Activists say many have been executed by law enforcement agencies with the tacit backing of the president. The ICC suspended the investigation in November at Manila’s request.

In his 53-page request, Khan pointed out to the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber that the Duterte administration allegedly failed to show findings of its own investigation.

“The GovPH (government of the Philippines) does not appear to be investigating whether any of the alleged crimes were committed pursuant to a policy, or occurred systematically or whether any person in the higher echelons of the police or government may be criminally responsible. For these reasons alone, the court should not defer to the GovPH investigation,” Khan said.

Moreover, Khan said the Philippine government investigation only showed a small number of killings that did not lead to any criminal prosecutions.

In this light, the resumption of the ICC investigation would allow victims or their families to filed written submissions, according to Khan. He did not elaborate but legal experts explained such submissions would help strengthen their complaints against Duterte.

Earlier, the UN-backed international tribunal based in The Hague, Netherlands, stopped in November its investigation in response to a request from the Duterte administration. Among others, it said, the Department of Justice would conduct its own probe on the drug war amid alleged rampant human rights violations.

Significantly, the ICC reported the request of Khan barely a week before Duterte’s six-year term as president is to expire on June 30. At that date, he is to turn over the reigns of the government to president-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos.

Governor Crispin Remulla of Cavite province in Southern Luzon, the Marcos nominee as the chief of the Department Justice, also supported the Duterte stand.

Remulla told reporters in a mix of Filipino and English: “We do not want to submit to any international court unless we are dysfunctional. We have a functioning democratic system right now and we’re just improving its efficiency.”

 

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