ICC investigation on Duterte’s drug war opens old wounds

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    THIS week, the office of International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda reported that it has found “reasonable basis to believe” that alleged crimes against humanity were committed in connection with President Rodrigo Duterte’s highly controversial war on drugs.

    Bensouda’s office is now mulling whether to seek authorization from the judge to investigate the Philippine situation next year. The news has opened old wounds among Filipinos, both victims and proponents of the war on drugs.

    Always on the defensive whenever the issue of foreign fact-finding initiative is raised especially on Duterte’s fight against drug addiction and trafficking, presidential spokesman Harry Roque stressed that the International Criminal Court will only waste its time and funds if it pursues an inquiry into the drug war since it has no jurisdiction over President Duterte. The spox maintained that there was “no reason” for the ICC to continue such scrutiny into the government’s anti-drug campaign.

    `Several years ago, deaths in the anti-drug war had been common occurrences but not anymore today, so we also wonder why the ICC prosecutor suddenly thought of pursuing his probe.’

    Roque said in a televised press briefing: “It is up to them what they want to do. We don’t recognize the jurisdiction of ICC.” The spokesman’s position may be based on the Philippines’ withdrawal from the Rome Statute, the ICC’s enabling law, last year. The investigation process was hazy and turbulent when it started in 2018, as there were allegations of due process being violated, aside from the country’s avowed dislike for being scrutinized by foreigners.

    As a lawyer, Roque’s expertise is in international law and human rights, and he authoritatively cited that the ICC previously dropped an investigation when a member-state did not cooperate. He cited that case of abuses committed by American soldiers in Afghanistan, which was dropped due to the non-cooperation by the US.

    The Palace spokesman is correct in pointing out that Bensouda’s claim that crimes against humanity had been committed by Duterte since the drug war may be categorized as just a vigorous security and anti-crime operation, and that there is “minimum gravity” required for cases to be tried in the ICC.

    Several years ago, deaths in the anti-drug war had been common occurrences but not anymore today, so we also wonder why the ICC prosecutor suddenly thought of pursuing his probe.

    If there are abuses in the drug war, our judicial system can very well take care of them. It is a stretch, however, if Duterte makes good on his promise to throw in jail any ICC representative who will visit the country and investigate the conduct of the war on illegal drugs.