The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI has started investigating 250 more cases of deaths as a result of the drug war operations during the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte, according to Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla.
“Prior to our assumption to office, there are 250 other cases referred to the NBI by Secretary Guevarra [and now Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra] and the NBI is working on them,” Remulla said during a press conference on Wednesday.
Remulla stressed that the 250 cases are different from the 52 cases previously submitted by the Philippine National Police for review before the DOJ.
Among the 52 cases, Justice Undersecretary Jesse Hermogenes Andres said that six have either been dismissed or the families of the victims have expressed their intention to no longer pursue their complaints.
“However, seven have already been subject of a case build up and these are already filed in court. And we are very confident with the evidence to be presented in these seven cases,” Andres noted.
Because of this, Remulla appealed to witnesses to come forward and help in the prosecution of the cases.
“The problem will always be the dearth of witnesses. There is always a lack of witnesses who are needed to be able to prosecute a case successfully,” he lamented. “We can take care of the witnesses, give them protection,” he said.
Besides, Remulla said the country’s justice system remains functioning and that there is no need for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate alleged crimes committed during the drug war of former President Duterte.
Andres stressed that the ICC can only conduct an investigation if there is the “inability of the present state of government to address the institutional requirements to attain justice.”
“However, it is very clear, based on existing laws and existing agencies and government instrumentalities, that everything is being addressed at our own level competently and adequately through institutional measures,” Andres said.
The Philippine government has already withdrawn in 2018 from the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the ICC.
“It’s just logical that if you are not part of the ICC, the activities of the ICC will cease as far as your country is concerned,” Remulla said.
Nonetheless, Remulla assured that the Philippine government will respond to the ICC’s request to comment on the request of ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan to resume the investigation on the drug war.
“It’s not a matter of compliance. We are not doing this because we have to comply with anything. We will just furnish them with information just to show that they have requested the information, we will give it to them out of courtesy and comity,” he explained.
The DOJ chief also believes that the country will not become a pariah following the declaration made by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. that the Philippines will not rejoin the ICC.
“I think that we are fully in our rights not to join,” Remulla declared. He pointed out that the United States, China, and Russia are not members of the ICC.
“There are many that are not members of the ICC). Are they pariahs? Are we saying their systems don’t work? Is it a club that says if you don’t belong here you are no good? It is not,” Remulla said.