Caritas Philippines, the social action arm of the Catholic Church in the country, called on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to allow an international investigation into the reported deaths of thousands of suspected drug users and peddlers during the administration of former president Rodrigo Duterte.
Father Antonio Labiao Jr., executive secretary of Caritas Philippines, said an independent investigation “will allow the due process to run its course and ensure justice and truth will prevail.”
A report on CBCP News said Father Labiao made the statement after the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced the resumption of its investigation into possible “crimes against humanity” committed in Duterte’s “drug war.”
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.
“The Senate and the House of Representatives should exert pressure and issue a resolution addressed to President Marcos allowing the ICC to resume its investigation,” said Father Labiao.
“If the government has nothing to hide then it has nothing to fear,” he added.
Caritas Philippines is leading a technical working group on human rights, which includes 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.
The group is working on a human rights campaign and is looking to the UN Joint Programme on Human Rights for support on its work on education and capacity building, documentation of cases, resource mapping, and assistance to victims of human rights violations.
“We urge President Marcos to allow the ICC to conduct its investigation freely and show that the government is sincere in its vow to promote accountability and protect human rights,” said Father Jovic Lobrigo, BCDI president.
Father Christian Buenafe, CMSP co-executive secretary, stressed the need to “humanize” the discussions on human rights in the Philippines, “which is currently focused on red-tagging, militarization, and culture of impunity and violence.”
“There should be meaningful discourse and engagement instead of vilifying perceived critics,” said Buenafe.
“We are calling on all sectors, especially the academic and business sectors, to join the campaign and advocate for a culture of respect for human dignity and protection of human rights for everyone, regardless of their circumstances,” he added.