International Criminal Court (ICC) opens investigations

Update November 2021:

In Arturo Lascañas’ 186-page affidavit, the former high-ranking police officer who served in Davao City for 35 years states that he was involved in murders as one of the first members of the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS). Moreover, his explanations open up a wide range of entanglements and accusations that are highly relevant to the investigation of crimes against humanity for murder between November 1, 2011, and March 16, 2016.

Lascañas is granted limited immunity in the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) investigative process. An agreement for this has already been signed on November 11, 2020. He himself can be treated as a perpetrator in the investigation, though he cannot be convicted in this context – which does not preclude prosecution in the Philippines.

Lascañas bases his allegations in his statement on specific events and names. As mayor in Davao City, Duterte allegedly ordered members of the DDS directly or indirectly to kill criminals and political opponents in at least 100 cases. Also involved were his “alleged ‘enablers,’ many of them appointed or elected to national positions when the boss became president of the Philippines” – such as Senators Roland dela Rosa and Christopher Go. Lascañas also mentions Duterte’s children.

Duterte is also said to have had close ties to people involved in big drug deals. For instance, Chinese nationals Michael Yang and Lin Weixiong are often mentioned in the affidavit. Yang is said to have coordinated a network of methamphetamine labs in the early 2000s in Mindanao; Duterte’s son Paolo was also allegedly involved in these businesses. Yang not only served as Duterte’s economic adviser in 2018 – throughout Duterte’s presidency, both he and Lin “have risen from relative obscurity to enjoy significant commercial successes,” and are linked to corruption cases.

Back in March 2017, Lascañas already publicly confessed his membership and perpetration in the DDS to prove its existence. At a press conference and a later hearing before the Senate, he already gave details, names, places and events that included Duterte’s links to illegal drug deals – information that also coincided with Acierto’s statements that same year. His “disclosures were officially scorned and ignored,” therefore Lascañas left the country a month later.

Update October 2021:

International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan, in office since June 2021, commented on the approval of the investigation: “We will focus our efforts on ensuring a successful, independent and impartial investigation.” The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) is still willing to work constructively with Philippine national authorities. In addition, the OTP would like to cooperate with civil society organizations and States Parties. Witnesses can be flown to The Hague, social media content, and online mechanisms can be used for the investigation. Every important authority can contribute information, high-ranking ones, as well as local authorities and police officers.

Rodrigo Duterte said he would prepare for his defense and be ready for the charges against him when retired from politics after his term in June 2022. Former police chief Roland dela Rosa, who is now running for president, may also face impeachment by the ICC. Regarding that matter he would prefer to be held accountable by a Philippine criminal justice system “run like hell than by a criminal justice system run like paradise by foreign judges.

The question of the Philippine government’s cooperation in the ICC investigation is also of concern to presidential candidates in the current election campaigns. For instance, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (or Bongbong Marcos) would stick to the withdrawal from the ICC and grant investigators only entry for tourism. Manila Mayor Isko Moreno would at least favor rejoining the ICC to “give a good impression to the world.” Also, he promised, if elected as president, not to tolerate extrajudicial killings in anti-illegal drug operations.


The ICC has now opened investigations, as recommended by former ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in her statement from June 14, 2021: against the government of Rodrigo Duterte with regards to the so-called war on drugs starting with the begin of his presidency and until March 2019 as well as with regards to the killings by death sqauds in Davao during the period from 2011-2016, when Duterte was mayor of Davao. The current chief prosecutor of the ICC is Karim Khan. The Philippine government already declared the will not to cooperate with the investigations.

This Rappler article sums up the main aspects of the ICC decision, while this Rappler article states how Senator Dela Rosa would like to choose the jurisdiction that should hold him accountable – while in reality, the whole reason fpr the ICC to act is the absence of national accountability.

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