International rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday, Sept. 9, lambasted the Philippine government for claiming that it is taking steps to prosecute those responsible for the drug-related killings.
Carlos Conde, senior Philippines researcher of HRW, said they have “found no compelling evidence that the government was seriously investigating these cases, let alone prosecuting those responsible.”
“In fact, the killings are continuing and impunity for police officers and others implicated in these abuses by all accounts remains intact,” he said.
On Sept. 8, the Philippine government rejected the request of the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to resume the investigation into the war on drugs campaign of former President Rodrigo Duterte.
In a statement, Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra said that the complaints filed before the ICC “are already being investigated and prosecuted” and that “the State is neither unwilling nor unable to carry out these domestic proceedings.”
“The ICC has no jurisdiction over the situation in the Philippines. The alleged murder incidents that happened during the relevant period do not constitute “crimes against humanity,” considering that said incidents do not qualify as an “attack” against the civilian population. Furthermore, the said occurrences were not in furtherance of a state or organizational policy to commit such attack,” Guevarra said.
The country’s Supreme Court, however, said in 2021, that the Philippines is still mandated to cooperate in the proceedings despite its withdrawal of membership on March 17, 2019.
Article 27 of the Rome Statute states that all proceedings prior to the withdrawal remain valid even after the withdrawal.
The ICC Prosecutor asserts that the ICC retains jurisdiction with respect to alleged crimes that occurred in the Philippines while it was a State Party, from 1 November 2011 up to and including 16 March 2019.
Cristina Palabay, secretary general of the rights group Karapatan, said the Philippine government’s observations on the request of the ICC chief prosecutor “indicate its inability to acknowledge the injustice experienced by the victims and their families.”
“The dire lack of domestic independent investigation into and successful prosecution of perpetrators of the alleged crimes are very serious issues raised by the victims and their families,” she said.