Marcos continues to reject ICC investigation

Since the reopening of the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation in January 2023 into the so-called “war on drugs” under Rodrigo Duterte – during his time as President of the Philippines and Mayor of Davao City (2011-2019), the Philippine government under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has changed its position on the ICC several times.

In a surprising twist, the House of Representatives’ Committees on Human Rights and Justice approved resolutions on November 29, 2023, calling on Marcos to cooperate with the ICC investigation and rejoin the body. Shortly beforehand, on November 24, the President had announced that he was examining the possibility of the Philippines rejoining the ICC. Marcos had continuously rejected before that to cooperate with the ICC since taking office in June 2022.

Since the beginning of 2024, rumors have increasingly circulated that ICC investigators were already in the Philippines since December 2023. In addition, enough evidence against former President Rodrigo Duterte should have already been collected so that an arrest warrant could soon be issued, stated former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV. Former Bayan Muna party-list congressman and one of the lawyers of relatives of victims of the so-called “war on drugs,” Neri Colmenares, also believes that the ICC investigators have already questioned key witnesses and may have travelled to the country without notifying the Philippine government.

In January 2024, President Marcos once again took a negative stance towards the ICC. In an interview on January 23, he described the international court as a threat to the country’s sovereignty and emphasized that the government would not provide any support for the ICC’s investigations into the previous Duterte administration’s “war on drugs.” The President also stated that while ICC investigators can come to the Philippines like “ordinary people,” the government will strictly monitor their actions, especially if they want to talk to authorities. These statements follow Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s call for the government to clarify whether it has allowed ICC investigators to enter the country. However, the Ministry of Justice stated that it had not received any official notification of their presence. International bodies would also need the approval of the relevant authorities, the ministry said.

According to Trillanes, the daughter of the ex-president and vice president, Sara Duterte, will be included as a “secondary” defendant in the case for crimes against humanity before the ICC based on the testimony of a confessed contract killer for the Davao Death Squad, which is said to be responsible for numerous drug-related killings. According to the testimony of Arturo Lascañas, a retired police officer, Sara Duterte was allegedly involved in the drug-related killings in Davao City. Duterte allegedly continued the “oplan tokhang” (“knock” and “plead”) method after she took over as mayor of Davao City from her father in 2010. The Vice President denies any involvement and called the allegations a politically motivated “script.” Sara Duterte declared that she would face any accusation, but only in a Philippine court.

According to local human rights lawyers, it would probably take some time for the ICC to issue arrest warrants against Philippine officials.


Photo © Raffy Lerma

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