All eyes on Marcos as ICC drug probe reboot eyed

PHILSTAR

ALL EYES are on incoming President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. and his commitment to human rights after a request by the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor to resume the investigation into alleged crimes against humanity by his predecessor in the Philippine government’s war on drugs, political analysts said at the weekend.

The ICC probe is unlikely to prosper if Mr. Marcos allows his alliance with presidential daughter and incoming Vice-President Sara Duterte-Carpio “to take precedence over everything else,” said Dennis C. Coronacion, who heads the University of Santo Tomas Political Science Department.

“The next administration has sent mixed signals regarding how it will deal with the matter,” he said in a text message. “These contradictory statements tend to confuse the public.”

He said incoming Justice Secretary Crispin C. Remulla had sent signals that the government would not cooperate with the ICC probe, citing the country’s functioning justice system.

On the other hand, Mr. Marcos did say that he “would like to see a high level of accountability on the aspect of human rights,” Mr. Coronacion said.

The ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor has sought to reopen the probe into President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s anti-illegal drug campaign months after it was halted upon the Philippine government’s request. 

In a 53-page request to the ICC pre-trial chamber, ICC Prosecutor Karim Ahmed Khan said the Philippine government had not shown that it has investigated crimes related to the campaign.

He said the chamber should issue an order on an “expedited basis.” It should “receive any further observations it considers appropriate from victims and the government of the Philippines,” he added.

The ICC prosecutor’s request to resume the probe is a “booster shot for accountability,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Saturday.

“The government has not been serious about justice for these crimes while the victims’ families grieve without redress and those responsible face no consequences,” Maria Elena Vignoli, senior international justice counsel at the global human rights watchdog, said in a statement.

Philippine government data released in June 2021 showed that at least 6,117 suspected drug dealers had been killed in police operations as of April 2021. Human rights groups estimate that as many as 30,000 suspects have been killed.

Mr. Khan said the information about cases taken from the dockets of national and regional prosecution offices in the Philippines “does not demonstrate that concrete and progressive steps have been or are being taken by the competent national authorities.”

He said the Philippines had failed to show that “any individual has been investigated for ordering, planning, or instigating any of these killings, nor is there any indication that the domestic authorities are investigating the alleged systemic nature of these and other killings.”

The ICC probe might threaten the “united front,” said Maria Ela L. Atienza, a political science professor at the University of the Philippines, referring to Mr. Marcos’ campaign promise of unity. He ran in tandem with Ms. Carpio and both won the May 9 elections by a landslide.

She said the human rights stance of the son and namesake of the late dictator would be closely monitored given violations committed during his father’s two-decade authoritarian rule. “Many are wary that the son may replicate the record of the father.”

Ms. Atienza also noted that a number of Duterte officials and allies would continue to serve under the Marcos government.

“We will see if they will continue to defend Duterte’s war on drugs or will take on a different stance under the new administration,” she said in a Viber message.

Mr. Marcos has named Mr. Duterte’s Justice chief Menardo I. Guevarra solicitor general, the government’s chief lawyer.

Mr. Guevarra on Sunday said the Department of Justice should have been given enough time to produce results first, noting that Mr. Khan’s move to lift the probe suspension was premature.

“I respect his view but I think he should have waited for our efforts to bear some fruit,” he said. “An investigation of this magnitude and complexity cannot be finished in a few months.”

‘UNCOMFORTABLE’The ICC suspended its investigation of the drug war in November as the Justice department and other agencies started looking at 52 cases recorded from 2016 and 2021.

The DoJ had only brought five of the 52 cases, which involved about 150 police officers, to court since it started its investigation in 2021.

Analysts said the European Union would probably continue to exert pressure on the Philippine government to respect human rights.

Cooperating with the ICC presents an “uncomfortable choice” for Mr. Marcos, the Gabriela Women’s Party said at the weekend.

He would be perceived as a leader who condones human rights violations if he blocks the ICC probe, exposing the “stubborn reign of impunity under the new presidency,” it said.

Anakpawis Party-list National President Ariel B. Casilao dared Mr. Marcos to give way to the ICC investigation.

“We challenge Marcos, Jr. not to block the ICC probe on Duterte and to recognize the Rome Statute and International Humanitarian Law,” he said in a statement. “Duterte’s crime was not simply ‘war on drugs,’ but state terrorism where he used the state machinery to sow terrorism among the Filipino people.”

The presidential palace at the weekend called the state’s anti-illegal drug campaign a success “that saw a massive dip in crime incidents attributed to drug abuse.”

Mr. Duterte’s spokesman, Martin M. Andanar, told the ICC, which investigates and tries people charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression, to “let these efforts of the Philippine government run their course.”

“If Marcos, Jr. gives Duterte protection in the ICC probe, he will only prove that he is not worthy to be president,” Mr. Casilao said.

Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand R. Gaite welcomed the ICC prosecutor’s move. “We look forward to its conclusion the soonest possible time for the sake of giving justice to the victims of this crime against humanity,” he said in a statement.

“Years have already passed after these killings, the prolonged and still continuing suffering of their families in seeking justice should now be put to an end.”

Mr. Duterte, whose six-year term ends on June 30, has asked his successor to continue his anti-illegal drug campaign.

Arjan P. Aguirre, who teaches political science at the Ateneo De Manila University expects Mr. Marcos to “use his popularity to repel any pressure from civil society.” — Norman P. Aquino, Alyssa Nicole O. Tan and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza