Updated Dec. 16, 2020, 10:27 a.m.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA — The International Criminal Court released its report on preliminary examination on the Philippines. The Office of Prosecutor is “satisfied that information available provides a reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity of murder, torture and the infliction of serious physical injury and mental harm as other inhumane Acts were committed” in connection to the government’s so-called war on drugs between July 1, 2016 and March 16, 2019.
The Office expects to reach a decision on whether to seek authorization to open an investigation In the Philippines in the first half of 2021.
Rise Up for Right and for Life, a group of families whose loved ones were killed in the government’s campaign against illegal drugs welcomed the report.
“There is no doubt that the policies and operations under the Duterte administration are responsible for the onslaught of extra-judicial killings and other human rights violations under the ‘war on drugs.’ State officials and police forces were both brazen and confident that they would enjoy impunity in their crimes,” the group said.
Rise Up also said that they “continue to place hope in the International Criminal Court to deliver justice for the many persons who have been victims of human rights violations and relief to their families who continue to herald the urgency to #StopTheKillings in the Philippines.”
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) President Edre Olalia welcomed it as “a very considerable development that has far reaching repercussions.”
Olalia said the government and the law enforcers must take the ICC report seriously and “get the message loud and clear.”
“We look very much forward and with keen interest that the OTP ‘anticipates reaching a decision on whether to seek authorization to open an investigation.’” “Finally, rays of hope have peeked out of the pitchdark clouds of impunity. We hope real and effective redress can be achieved in time,“ Olalia said.
Cristina Palabay, secretary general of human rights group Karapatan, meanwhile said that the findings of international bodies in President Duterte’s anti-people and deadly campaign have been consistent with the report of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights report last June, the European Parliament resolutions as well as several reports of UN Special Procedures and independent human rights organizations.
“The day of reckoning is coming nearer for Duterte’s reign of terror. As we await the decision of the Office of the Prosecutor, we press our calls for justice for the Duterte administration’s brutal crimes against the Filipino people,” Palabay said in a statement.
They also called on the ICC and other human rights bodies such as the UN Human Rights Council to pursue its investigation into the human rights crisis in the Philippines.
“We strongly hope that accountability can be achieved as soon as possible,” Palabay said.
According to the ICC report, the OTP has “collected and analysed information relevant to gravity.”
“Throughout the reporting period, the Office continued to engage and consult with relevant stakeholders in order to address a range of matters relevant to the preliminary examination and to seek further information to inform its assessment of the situation,” the report said.
It also added that the OTP is also “following with concern reports of threats, killings and other measures apparently taken against human rights defenders, journalists and others, including those who have criticised the war on drugs campaign.”
The report also noted that while the Philippine government withdrew from the Rome Statute on March 17, 2018, the ICC “retains jurisdiction over alleged crimes that have occurred on the territory of the Philippines during the period when it was a State Party to the Statute, namely from 1 November 2011 up to and including 16 March 2019.”
Furthermore, it added that the exercise of the ICC’s jurisdiction is not subject to any time limit.
Rome Statute is the treaty that created the ICC. Philippine government’s withdrawal was formalized on March 17, 2019.
Bayan Muna Chairman Neri Colmenares said that the Duterte administration may “deny to high heavens that they are blatantly violating human rights but the international community is also closely watching and we hope that justice will be served soon.”