International Criminal Court releases its update on the Philippines; finds reason to further look into reports
MANILA – The International Criminal Court said while the Philippines withdrew from the Rome Statute coursed through the United Nations Secretary-General on March 17,2018 and the withdrawal taking effect on March 17,2019, “the Court retains jurisdiction over alleged crimes that have occurred on the territory of the Philippines during the period when it was a State Party to the Statute.”
In its “Report on the Preliminary Examination Activities 2020” which was released at 8:00 P.M. in The Hague, The Netherlands or 3:00 A.M. in Manila, disclosed the Philippines was a State Party to the Statute from November 1,2011 until March 16,2019.
“Furthermore, the exercise of the Court’s jurisdiction (i.e. the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed up to and including 16 March 2019) is not subject to any time limit,” the statement added.
The ICC looked into the nationwide anti-drug campaign by the Philippine National Police (PNP) following President Duterte’s pronouncement to eradicate illegal drugs during the first six months of his term.
“In the context of the campaign, PNP forces have reportedly conducted tens of thousands of operations to date, which have reported resulted in the killing of thousands of alleged drug users and/or small-scale dealers. It is also reported that, since 1 July 2016, unidentified assailants have carried out thousands of attacks similarly targeting such individuals,” the section on Subject-Matter Jurisdiction added.
In Paragraph 189, the ICC said “the Office is satisfied that information available provides a reasonable basis to believe that the crimes against humanity or murder (article 7(1)(a), torture (article 7(1)(f), and the infliction of serious physical injury and mental harm as other inhumane Acts (article 7(1)(k) were committed on the territory of the Philippines between at least 1 July 2016 and 16 March 2019, in connection to the WoD (War on Drugs) campaign launched throughout the country.”
The ICC said the continued to collect, receive and review information from a variety of sources on investigations and prosecutions at the national level as they “mapped out the various investigative prosecutorial authorities conducting investigations and proceedings relevant to the potential cases that would likely be the focus of the investigation.”
It noted Philippine government officials and bodies provided sporadic public updates on the number of inquiries made.
“The information available also indicates that criminal charges have been laid in the Philippines against a limited number of individuals – typically low-level, physical perpetrators – with respect to some drug-related killings.” They took note of the conviction of certain police operatives in the killing of Kian Delos Santos.
They also recognized Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra’s announcement of the creation of an inter-agency panel to reinvestigate deaths in police WoD operations. The ICC said they will monitor developments from the inter-agency panel.
Over at the Presidential Palace, Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque said the Philippines does not recognize the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction.
“We are confident the ICC will apply its ruling in a particular case. Why would they start another case if the other party will not cooperate, a country which was a former member of the ICC. It is the ICC’s decision, the pre-trial chamber in a case when they want to investigate American troopers in Afghanistan,” he said.
He added the Philippines does not agree with the statement as it is “legally erroneous” because minimum gravity is required and that not all crimes can be investigated by the ICC.
Asked of his reaction to the ICC’s statement that the exercise of the Court’s jurisdiction on the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed up to and including March 16,2019 is not subject to any time limit, Secretary Roque said “There is no decision issued by the ICC yet. That is misleading.”
In a related development, Atty. Edre Olalia of the National Union of People’s Lawyers said with the continuing “intensification of violations of human rights in general, this finding that ‘there is reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity were committed’ in connection to the War on Drugs is a very considerable development that has far reaching repercussions.”
He added government and law enforcers must take the report seriously and get the message loud and clear.
Atty. Olalia said they look forward with “keen interest” that the Office of the Prosecutor comes up with a decision whether to seek authorization to open an investigation.
“Finally, rays of hope have peeked out of the pitchdark clouds of impunity. We hope real and effective redress can be achieved in time,” he concluded. (Melo M. Acuña)
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. (Screen grab from Malacanang Press Briefing, December 15,2020/Melo M. Acuna)