Catholic Church groups in the Philippines have joined in the investigation into the killings allegedly committed during the conduct of the government’s “war” against illegal drugs in recent years.
A “technical working group on human rights” is being organized by the social action arm of the Catholic bishops’ conference, Caritas Philippines; the Conference of Major Superiors in the Philippines; the Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund; the Bicol Consortium for Development Initiatives (BCDI) Inc.; and the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines.
“This is a step in the right direction to promote transparency, fairness, and trust in public institutions,” said Father Antonio Labiao, executive director of Caritas Philippines, in an interview over Radio Veritas 846.
The priest expressed hope that justice will be served to the families and victims of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s “war against drugs” with the announcement that the International Criminal Court (ICC) will pursue its investigation.
“The resumption of the probe will allow due process to run its course and ensure justice and truth will prevail,” said Father Labiao.
Divine Word priest Flaviano “Flavie” Villanueva who helps families of “drug war” victims said the ICC decision “speaks loud and clear that ‘you cannot run away from your past sins.’”
The ICC earlier announced that it will reopen its investigation into possible “crimes against humanity” in the Philippines over Duterte’s “drug war.”
The Hague-based court announced plans for an investigation in February 2018, but suspended its work in November 2021 at the request of the Philippine government.
In June last year, ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan said the delay was not warranted and filed an application to reopen the case.
In a statement last week, the ICC said it was “not satisfied that the Philippines is undertaking relevant investigations that would warrant a deferral of the Court’s investigations.”
“The various domestic initiatives and proceedings, assessed collectively, do not amount to tangible, concrete and progressive investigative steps in a way that would sufficiently mirror the Court’s investigation,” it said.
A United Nations report in 2021 found that 8,663 people had been killed in anti-drug operations but the Human Rights Commission of the Philippines and local human rights groups say the toll could be as much as three times higher.
Human Rights Watch claimed it found evidence that police were falsifying evidence to justify unlawful killings, with Duterte continuing the “large-scale extrajudicial violence as a crime solution.”
The Philippines said it planned to lodge an appeal against the ICC decision.