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Filipinos welcome ICC order to investigate Duterte

By Jose Oscar Magpusao

Photo Credits: International Criminal Court

Victims, public officials, party-list representatives and others expressed their support for the International Criminal Court (ICC) as they announced the commencement of their investigation on President Duterte’s war on drugs on Wednesday.


The ICC’s announcement stated that its Pre-Trial Chamber 1 granted the request of former ICC prosecutor Atty. Fatou Bensouda dated June 14 to probe "allegedly committed on the territory of the Philippines between 1 November 2011 and 16 March 2019 in the context of the so-called 'war on drugs' campaign."


The ICC also noted that "specific legal element of crime against humanity of murder" has been met with respect to Duterte's war on drugs in the period from July 1, 2016 or one day after Duterte assumed power until March 16, 2019 or the day before the Philippines formally exited the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC.


Victims


The National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL) issued a press statement on Thursday representing the intent of the victims, family of victims and support groups to fully cooperate with the ICC’s investigations under the counsel of NUPL National Chair Atty. Neri Colmenares, with Atty. Maria Kristina Conti of NUPL for Rise Up as assisting counsel.


“It is with overwhelming joy and trepidation that we, with the families of victims of the war on drugs, step into the next stage of the ICC proceedings,” they said in the statement.


“We intend to bypass the Duterte government’s refusal to cooperate by supplying the Office of the Prosecutor with original and authenticated evidence, documentary, testimonial, even object evidence, which will be necessary to build the strongest case possible,” they added.


“The toll of the war on drugs has been exceptionally heavier on the poor, as has been in every disaster, natural or man-made. The ICC decision lends them the right to hope justice will be served somehow, some day. We have to stand by them every step of the way,” they added


Public Officials


Former Senator Antonio Trillanes, who had initially filed charges against Duterte before the ICC for the thousands of killings that resulted from his anti-drug campaign, went on social media on Thursday and showed his support for the ICC’s order to start investigations.


“To the families of the EJK victims, this is another step closer to attaining justice for your loved ones. To Duterte and his cohorts, this is another step closer to prison,” Trillanes said in his post.


Senator Leila de Lima also went on social media and weighed in on the announcement of both the ICC and the victims of the administration’s drug war, stating her recognition for those who took part in the investigation and thanked them “for their courage in coming forward and being instrumental in the ICC decision to investigate Duterte and his murderous war on drugs.” “Duterte cannot escape the inevitability of the stark truth and the exacting rage of accountability for the drug war bloodbath. His own rage will not save him,” de Lima’s post said.


Party-List Representatives


Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Arlene Brosas welcomed the ICC’s investigation, describing it in her statement on Thursday as a “huge step in bringing justice to thousands of mothers who lost their husband and children to the extrajudicial killings under the Duterte regime.”


“This is a step forward for human rights defenders and all of the victims’ families who have been waiting for years for a single shed of hope in bringing President Duterte accountable for this bloody war against the poor,” Rep. Brosas said in the statement.


She speculated in her statement that President Duterte would resist the ICC’s investigation and use diversionary tactics and propaganda to bury the issue as the 2022 national elections approaches, where he intends to run for Vice-President.


“Sa kasaysayan ng Pilipinas, walang diktador na nagtagumpay at nanatili sa kapangyarihan habambuhay. Asahan ng presidente na sa kabila ng napakarami nitong krimen sa ating bansa, mas lalo pang dadami ang kababaihang mananawagan ng tunay na kalayaan at magtatanggol sa interes ng ordinaryong mamamayan,” she said in her statement.


“Isang malaking kahihiyan ito sa pamahalaan kaya gagawin ni Duterte ang lahat para tabunan ang isyung ito lalo’t papalapit na ang national elections at tatakbo pa siya bilang bise-presidente,” she added.


Assistant Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Representative France Castro also showed their support for the ICC’s probe on Duterte’s war on drugs and the Duterte Death Squad killings in a statement on Thursday, saying it was “a welcome development and a step towards holding President Duterte accountable for his crimes against humanity as commander-in-chief of this so-called war and drugs.”


“President Duterte and his minions cannot deny that state forces had a role in the killings of thousands of Filipinos. Its serious offenses against human rights in the so-called war against drugs have indeed reached the level of crimes against humanity, on par with those perpetrated by the most notorious dictators in history,” Rep. Castro said in her statement


Magdalo Party-List Representative Manuel Cabochan, Kabataan Party-List Representative Sarah Elago, among others, also welcomed the ICC’s investigation through statements and social media.


Groups and Organizations


The In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND) also welcomed the ICC’s decision during an impromptu livestream on Thursday, stating that the decision “removes all doubt as to the gravity of the crimes.”


“Binasag ng desisyong ito ang naratibong Duterte na ang mga kwento, ang mga report, ang mga alegasyon ay gawa-gawa lamang ng mga disgruntled, gawa-gawa lamang ng mga dilawan, gawa-gawa lamang ng mga miyembro ng mga militanteng organisasyon. Malinaw na pinag-aralan at nagkaroon ng merit at legal basis, reasonable basis, para ipagpatuloy ang imbestigasyon,” Judy Pasimio, iDEFEND spokesperson and LILAK Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights National Coordinator, said during the livestream.


“We have to support the victims’ families, those who have been blessed to have survived it and are still surviving it and those whose families were left behind. We have to take great care in monitoring their safety and conditions,” Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit of the Commission on Human Rights said during the livestream.


“A government will only benefit if they cooperate and this is, in fact, an opportunity for them to demonstrate that they are able and willing to exact accountability arising out of the campaign against illegal drugs,” Gomez-Dumpit added.


Karapatan, an internationally recognized Filipino human rights group, also embraced the investigations through the social media of its Secretary General Tinay Palabay on Wednesday.


“The Chamber’s view that these attacks were widespread and systematic likewise reaffirms the views of victims and their families. Duterte and his cohorts should be made accountable for these crimes,” Palabay’s post said.


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