Duterte Defiant as ICC announces full investigation into Philippines war on drugs

MANILA – A lawyer for President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday that representatives of the International Criminal Court would be denie...


MANILA – A lawyer for President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday that representatives of the International Criminal Court would be denied entry to the Philippines, a day after the Hague-based court authorized a full investigation into Mr. Duterte against drugs.

A panel of three court judges said on Wednesday that the drug campaign, which has claimed thousands of lives, appeared to have been “”a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population. “He based this assessment on the evidence presented by prosecutors, who were conduct a preliminary investigation since 2018.

Salvador Panelo, lawyer for Mr. Duterte, reiterated on Thursday the president’s position that the court had no authority to investigate him. Mr. Duterte withdrew the Philippines from the treaty which established the tribunal after the start of its preliminary investigation.

“They will violate our rights if they persist in the investigation, as it would mean interfering in the internal affairs of our country,” said Panelo, who added that the Philippine justice system adequately addresses all crimes. committed during the war on drugs. .

“The country will not allow any ICC member to enter and collect information and evidence here in the Philippines,” Panelo said. “They will be banned from entering.”

National Police say his officers have killed at least 8,000 people suspected of being drug traffickers or drug addicts since Mr Duterte took office in 2016, after running for president promising to fill Manila Bay bodies of drug traffickers.

But rights groups in the Philippines, which welcomed the court’s announcement, say even that number vastly underestimates the true toll of the war on drugs and that thousands more have been killed by militias. pro-government.

“A lot of murders have been committed during police operations, but even the so-called vigilante murders were part of the war on drugs,” said Llore Pasco, who became an activist after two of her sons were killed. killed by police in 2017. “There was no due process and no respect for human rights.

The ICC has said it will also investigate the killings that took place in Davao city when Mr. Duterte was its mayor, before he became president. He was accused of leading a death squad there that eliminated political rivals as well as suspected drug traffickers and addicts. The court’s investigation will cover the period from November 2011 to March 2019, when the Philippines formally withdrew from the ICC treaty.

In a statement, the court said that “on the basis of the facts as they emerge at the present stage and subject to proper investigation and further analysis, the so-called ‘war on drugs’ campaign Can not be considered a legitimate law enforcement operation, and the killings neither as legitimate nor mere excesses in an otherwise legitimate operation.

“On the contrary, the material available indicates, to the required standard, that a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population has taken place under or in favor of state policy,” he said.

Ms Pasco, the activist, had two sons, one 33 and the other 32, who were killed by police in Quezon City, a suburb of Manila, in May 2017. She said they had consumed drugs in the past, but they gave them up there; police said they were part of a gang of thieves, which they deny. She said the court announcement was “like the sun shining on us now, brilliantly.”

Another grieving mother-turned-activist, Normita Lopez, lost her 23-year-old son Djastin Lopez in a police shootout the same year. “Nothing will bring Djastin back, but we can help ensure that no one is killed again,” she said.

Mr. Duterte has repeatedly said that he will never be tried by the International Court. He once said that Fatou Bensouda, then a court attorney, would be arrested if she came to the Philippines.

Home Secretary Eduardo Año, who controls the national police, said on Thursday they were ready to help with an ICC investigation, but added that “it is a matter of policy where only the president has the power to decide whether or not to authorize a non-local investigation. or not.”

“Therefore, we will abide by the president’s directives,” Año said.

Mr Duterte’s six-year term ends next year and, under the Philippine Constitution, he cannot run for a second. But he hopes run for vice-presidency together with a political ally, who, if he won the presidency, would be able to protect Mr. Duterte from the tribunal.

Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of People’s Advocates, which provides legal assistance to people who have lost family members in the war on drugs, said time was running out for Mr. Duterte, but that killings continued.

On Wednesday evening, even as news from The Hague court reached the Philippines, a lawyer for Mr Olalia’s organization, Juan Macababbad, was shot dead in the southern town of Cotabato by unknown people, he said. .

“It was July 4, 2016, when we first publicly denounced the madness of extrajudicial killings as part of the bloody drug campaign against the poor,” Olalia said. “Now the ICC has opened the doors for a fresh start – it has been a long and torturous journey so far. “

“It’s all worth it,” he said. “It will be worth it.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Duterte Defiant as ICC announces full investigation into Philippines war on drugs
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