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Manila Catholic bishop challenges Duterte to cooperate with ICC probe into drug killings

“If [the Duterte administration] did nothing wrong, the investigation will show," said Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila

The apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila urged President Rodrigo Duterte to cooperate in the impending investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into the drug-related killings in the country.

“If [the Duterte administration] did nothing wrong, the investigation will show. If they did something wrong, then the investigation will also show that,” said Bishop Broderick Pabillo in Filipino in an online media briefing on Wednesday, June 16.

“What we want is to end the culture of impunity, that [the killers] can do whatever they want without being accountable,” said the Manila prelate, an outspoken critic of the government’s “war” against illegal drugs.

Bishop Pabillo said the country’s Catholic Church leaders have been consistent in their call for “transparency” and “accountability” in the government. “That’s why in a way [the ICC move] is a welcome development,” he said.

The prelate said “accountability is part of good governance and democracy,” adding that government officials are only stewards and “they don’t own the country … it is only entrusted to them and they have to be accountable for it.”

ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced on the Monday the conclusion of the preliminary examination into the situation in the Philippines and requested judicial authorization to proceed with a formal criminal investigation.

Bensouda said “crimes against humanity” could have been committed in the country since 2016 with the implementation of the government’s “war on drugs.”

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Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, however, said Duterte will never cooperate with the ICC investigation. He said any decision to move forward with the investigation “is legally erroneous, politically motivated.”

Even as the Philippines have already withdrawn from the Rome Statute, “the ICC retains jurisdiction over the Philippine territory during the period it was a State Party from 01 November 2011 up to 16 March 2019,” said Bensouda.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court is the treaty that established the International Criminal Court. It was adopted at a diplomatic conference in Rome, Italy on July 17, 1998, and it entered into force on July 1, 2002.

The Philippines ratified the Rome Statute on August 30, 2011, and it entered into force from Nov. 1, 2011.

The Philippines officially withdrew from the ICC on March 17, 2019, a year after Duterte publicly announced the nation’s withdrawal. The withdrawal was triggered by ICC’s initiation of the investigation into the “war on drugs” in the Philippines.

The Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, a mission partner of the Conference of Major Superiors in the Philippines, also welcomed the request by the ICC prosecutor to open an investigation into allegations of grave human rights violations in the country.

“This is a step forward in the quest for accountability for the more than 20,000 extrajudicial killings perpetrated since the advent of the Duterte administration in 2016,” read a statement signed by Carmelite priest Christian Buenafe, TFDP chairperson.

“The victims and their families see a glimmer of hope in their long journey for truth and justice,” said the priest. “All parties will now be given a chance to prove or disprove State accountability in the bloody war on drugs,” he added.

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