President Rodrigo Duterte will not cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) when it conducts a full investigation into Duterte’s deadly drug war because the ICC has no jurisdiction over the country, according chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo.
The ICC recently announced it will conduct a full-blown investigation into Duterte’s anti-illegal drug campaign which human rights groups claim resulted to tens of thousands of fatalities, describing it as an illegitimate and systematic attack on civilians.
Panelo said Duterte “will not cooperate since first of all, the Philippines has left the Rome statute, so the ICC no longer has jurisdiction over the country”.
Panelo added that ICC investigators will not be allowed into the country. “The government will not let in any ICC member to collect information and evidence here in the Philippines. They will be barred entry.”
Duterte pulled Manila out of the Hague-based court after it launched a preliminary probe, but the ICC said it had jurisdiction over crimes committed while the Philippines was still a member.
Rights groups, lawyers and relatives of people killed in the drug war welcomed the ICC decision.
“This might be a way for us to get justice for the deaths of our loved ones,” said Corazon Enriquez, who blames Duterte for the killing of her son during a police raid on their home in 2016.
Ed Olalia, president of National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, said they hope this was “the beginning of the end to impunity” while rights group Karapatan said “Duterte and his cohorts should be made accountable for these crimes”.
At least 6,181 people died in more than 200,000 anti-drug operations conducted since July 2016, according to official data. ICC prosecutors estimate the figure to be between 12,000 to 30,000 dead.
Duterte has repeatedly attacked the ICC, world’s only permanent war crimes court, calling it “bullshit” and vowing not to cooperate with its probe.
The Philippine Supreme Court ruled earlier this year the ICC can prosecute “government actors” for alleged crimes committed before the country withdrew from the tribunal.
The ICC will also investigate extra-judicial killings in Davao City between 2011 and 2016 when Duterte was mayor.
Human rights lawyer Kristina Conti said the ICC investigation could take months or even years.
The government’s refusal to cooperate would make the probe “hard”, but she said ICC prosecutors could work with groups on the ground to get the evidence they needed.