August 29, 2018
ACTIVISTS and families of several fatalities in government’s war against illegal drugs yesterday filed a complaint against President Duterte before the Netherlands-based International Criminal Court for his alleged role in the death of thousands of alleged drug users and dealers.
It is the second petition against Duterte before the ICC, accusing him of murder and crimes against humanity.
The ICC petition, known as a communication, follows a similar complaint filed in April 2017 by a lawyer and backed by two opposition lawmakers, into which the ICC in February started a preliminary examination.
In March, Duterte unilaterally withdrew from the Rome Statute, a treaty which established the ICC, saying it skirted due process and presumption of his innocence and sought to portray him as a “ruthless and heartless violator of human rights.”
Jurist groups say that regardless of how the court rules, Duterte is not protected from a possible indictment because the alleged crimes took place while the Philippines was a member of the ICC, and therefore covered by its jurisdiction.
Duterte also maintains the Philippines never actually acceded to the Rome Statute in 2011 because it was not published in the country’s official gazette.
A petition against the withdrawal from the Rome Statute has been filed before the Supreme Court.
Opposition lawmakers maintain Duterte’s withdrawal from the treaty, which takes effect in March 2019, was illegal because it was done without Senate approval.
The ICC is a court of last resort that can exercise jurisdiction if states are unable or unwilling to investigate crimes, which Duterte’s spokesman said was not the case in the Philippines.
The ICC prosecutor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment and could not be reached out of normal office hours.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque expressed confidence the petition will not prosper, saying the international body cannot act on the communication unless it is proven that courts in the Philippines are unable or are unwilling to hear the complaint.
He also said the latest petition was “doomed” because the Philippines is no longer covered by the Rome Statute.
He also said: “That’s not a complaint. That’s a communication because it’s still to be acted upon by the ICC. Procedure is different. Anyone can file a communication. Even the Pope has a communication filed against him. So that (communication) doesn’t mean anything,” he said.
PNP spokesman Senior Supt. Benigno Durana said the only order Duterte gave to police was “to wage war on drugs and criminality within the bounds of the law.”
With the help of National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), Rise Up for Life and Rights and families of six victims of drug-related killings asked the ICC to convict Duterte for his alleged crimes against the people and award reparation to the victims and complainants.
In a 50-page complaint, the complainants alleged that Duterte violated Article 7 of the Rome Statute for “widespread and systematic attacks in the form of murder of thousands of civilians” and “in the form of acts intentionally causing great suffering or serious injury to body or mental or physical health” in line with his drug war.
“By his words and actions, President Duterte is the perpetrator and most responsible for the killings and other horrific acts. He has consistently stated that he is responsible for the ‘war on drugs,’” the petition said.
The communication said Duterte’s crackdown on drugs included “brazen” executions by police acting with impunity.
Critics of the campaign were being “persecuted,” they said, and cases filed by victims’ families had gone nowhere.
The complainants also said they have decided to elevate the matter to the ICC because of the President’s immunity from prosecution in Philippine courts and because the families are losing confidence in the country’s justice system.
NUPL chair Neri Colmenares, a lawyer representing the group said in
a press conference in Quezon City the communication was officially received by the ICC at 10:10 a.m. yesterday.
Colmenares said it is the first ICC complaint directly filed by the surviving kin of drug-related killings.
According to rights groups, police and vigilantes have killed some 12,000 persons since Duterte took office. But police said they have killed about 4,400 drug suspects in self-defense.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s tens of thousands or 4,410, there are several deaths already. This is up to the standard of crimes against humanity,” Colmenares said.
“We are asking the ICC prosecutor to act on our complaint fast because the filing of complaint is not only to seek justice, but also in hope that this anti-drug campaign will be stopped,” he added.
A. Lopez de Leon, J. Montemayor, Malaya and Reuters