“Where there’s been a crime, there should be punishment. But the apparent move to keep the withdrawal from the ICC permanently speaks volumes about the new administration’s frail commitment to due process and the rule of law in this country.”
We find it really unfortunate that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has declared that the Philippines has no intention of rejoining the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The President’s declaration came after convening a meeting with his key legal advisers that included Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, and Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez. Joining them was Atty. Harry Roque, the presidential spokesperson during the previous administration that launched a brutal war on drugs starting in 2016 that led, according to human rights groups here and abroad, to as many as 30,000 deaths.
If that meeting reached a consensus on circling the wagons and keeping the ICC at bay, then we’re likely to see no end to the culture of impunity that has allowed crimes to be committed without punishment.
Where there’s been a crime, there should be punishment. But the apparent move to keep the withdrawal from the ICC permanently speaks volumes about the new administration’s frail commitment to due process and the rule of law in this country.
Recall that sometime back the Supreme Court ordered the Philippine National Police to release documents related to the Duterte administration’s war on drugs based on petitions by various human rights groups.
The PNP dutifully complied, but submitted to the court, news reports said, of records of only 52 cases out of more than 6,500 officially acknowledged deaths.
That’s not even one measly percent of the total number of deaths in the course of the war on drugs.
But human rights groups, after studying the police reports, described the police records as “rubbish” as these uniformly portrayed the victims as having fought back (“nanlaban”) when law enforcers arrived to bring them into custody for alleged involvement in the drug trade.
That, the human rights advocates said, was tantamount to a “cut and paste” operation intended to shield police operatives from any accountability for outright murder and mayhem.
Former president Rodrigo Duterte stands accused of crimes against humanity by the ICC for the thousands of deaths in the course of his war on illegal drugs, both in Davao City when he was still the mayor and when he assumed the presidency in 2016.
He has repeatedly said he does not recognize the authority of the ICC and would not allow it to come in and conduct an investigation.
Duterte and now President Marcos insist that we have a functioning judiciary and therefore the ICC cannot interfere with our judicial processes.
But if we’re not mistaken, only one case against police operatives accused of summary executions of suspected drug personalities has prospered in court: the premeditated killing of 17-year-old student Kian del los Santos of Caloocan City in 2016.
The accused policemen were meted stiff prison terms after video evidence showed that the victim did not fight back as they had claimed but gunned down in a dark alley near his residence.
Between 2016 and 2022 is a good six years for the police to investigate the 6,500 or so cases of drug war killings.
But if only one case has been successfully resolved by our courts and the erring policemen sent to jail, then that shows that the government has deliberately ignored the clamor of the families of drug was victims for justice to be done.
Therefore, the ICC is well within its power to conduct a thorough investigation unsolved cases of summary executions or extrajudicial killings of alleged drug suspects.
We recognize that families of victims of summary executions are understandably afraid to speak out for fear of reprisals.
But if the ICC can gather evidence from them whether through actual testimony or through video, then we will get a clearer picture of what really happened in the past six years and whether crimes against humanity have been committed by the previous administration.
We urge the Marcos administration to reconsider its decision not to re-enter the ICC.
After all, we signed the Rome Statute creating the ICC as part of a rules-based international order.
Rodrigo Duterte decided to quit the ICC out of spite for its decision to investigate him for his bloody war on drugs.
If we want the rule of law to prevail in this country, the ICC should be allowed to investigate Duterte for ordering the police to launch a take-no-prisoners approach to the drug problem.
Duterte’s order for the police to “kill-kill-kill” drug traffickers has been justified by his spokesmen and underlings as nothing more than a figure of speech, or even a joke.
But the scale of the war on drugs and the big number of casualties indicate that the police took his order quite literally. After all, whatever the president says has the effect of official policy.
The new administration has the opportunity to prove to the world that it respects human rights, due process, and the rule of law by re-entering the ICC.
If it chooses to permanently withdraw from the international judicial body, then it practically condones genocide, mass murder, and crimes against humanity that civilized nations deem totally disdainful and totally unacceptable.