Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos declared in an interview on March 28, 2023, that he would cut off communications with the International Criminal Court (ICC). The day before, the ICC rejected the government’s request to not reopen investigations into human rights violations in the so-called “war on drugs” under ex-President Rodrigo Duterte. Bilaterally, however, the Philippine government wants to continue to cooperate with other countries on democracy and human rights issues, said Marcos in a video message for the US-led International Summit for Democracy on 29 March 2023.
Kristina Conti, secretary-general of the Philippine National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, thinks breaking off contact could be detrimental to the Philippines. Since the ICC investigation into the human rights violations is still ongoing, the ICC will reopen the case despite Marcos’ rhetoric. Therefore, the Philippine government must remain in contact with the ICC. Duterte also said he would no longer have to pay for his crimes, as he believes he will die in two years at the latest.
Secretary General of the Philippine human rights organisation Karapatan, Cristina Palabay, sharply criticised the baseless arguments against Marcos’ ICC trial. In her view, these show that the system of impunity continues under Marcos. Carlos Conde of Human Rights Watch also reminded that the Philippine government is obliged to cooperate with the ICC.
In its application, the Philippine government had also asked the ICC to reject the request of victims of the drug war through the Office of Public Counsel for Victims (OPCV) to take a stand in the case against Duterte. The ICC’s Victims’ Participation and Reparations Section (VPRS) that assists victims of crimes against humanity was assigned to submit a report in the Philippines case by 22 May 2023 with collected victim statements.
The recent arrest warrant issued against Russian President Vladimir Putin has demonstrated the ICC’s functionality. Agnes Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International, sees this as a clear signal that there is international justice for massive human rights violations.
Senator Francis Tolentino invited the ICC and Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan to a Senate hearing on the resolutions in defence of former President Duterte. Tolentino is acting as legal counsel for Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, who played a central role in Duterte’s drug war.
Photo © Raffy Lerma