Widespread and systematic attack’ . . .
The International Criminal Court (ICC) announced last week that it will launch a formal investigation into a spate of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines that occurred from 2011, when the country joined the ICC, until March 2019, when it withdrew. The investigation will focus on the “widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population” under the auspices of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. It will also explore continuities in the alleged violence between Duterte’s term as president beginning in 2016, and his preceding term as mayor of the city of Davao. These ‘continuities’ comprise tactics and personnel – the latter referring to individuals transferred from Davao to Manila to ‘nationalize’ Duterte’s drug war.
Victims include the poor, minors . . .
The ICC green-lighted the investigation after reviewing evidence pertaining to some 200 alleged victims. The total number of deaths, however, is far higher. According to the Philippines government, 6,117 drug dealers have been killed – deaths it defends as a legitimate use of force. Independent observers say the real number of victims is between 12,000 and 30,000, most of them poor and some of them minors. In comparison, an estimated 3,257 extrajudicial killings were carried out under former President Ferdinand Marcos after he declared martial law exactly 49 years ago today.
Accountability’s uncertain future . . .
As predicted, Duterte has refuted the ICC’s claims and said its investigators will not be allowed into the country. Some believe Duterte’s decision to withdraw the Philippines from the ICC was motivated by his concern about being ensnared in its net. But in July, the country’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the ICC’s jurisdiction for the 2011-19 period is valid. There is less certainty, however, as to what might happen if Duterte becomes vice-president in the May 2022 election. The country’s legal experts are divided as to whether it would grant him immunity from prosecution, especially after current Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra declared in 2019 that VP Leni Robredo, a Duterte rival, is not immune from criminal prosecution. Meanwhile, the victims’ families await some sign that their loved ones might someday receive justice.
- Al Jazeera: ICC to open full investigation into Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’
- International Crisis Group: The International Criminal Court goes after Duterte’s drug war
- Rappler: Killing as state policy: 10 things the ICC says about Duterte’s drug war