“I was so elated that I could barely sleep. I’m thinking that ‘this is it!’ Our long wait for justice is finally coming to light.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Four years after she lost two of her sons in anti-drug police operation, Llore Pasco finally saw a ray of hope.
Outgoing International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced June 14 that the complaint filed by Pasco and other members of Rise Up for Life and for Rights is expected to proceed to the investigation phase.
“I was so elated that I could barely sleep. I’m thinking that ‘this is it!’ Our long wait for justice is finally coming to light,” Pasco told Bulatlat in a phone interview.
In a statement, Rise Up for Life and for Rights thanked Bensouda, saying that they “feel vindicated that the Prosecutor has recognized the unjust killing of thousands of victims of Duterte’s ‘war on drugs.’”
The group believes that in the course of the investigation, the ICC will find a basis to issue a warrant of arrest against President Duterte whom they described as “the instigator and enabler of lawless killings in the country.”
Human rights advocates lauded the development.
Former United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard said that the announcement of Bensouda “is a moment of hope for thousands of families in the Philippines who are grieving those lost to the government’s so-called ‘war on drugs’.”
“This is a much-awaited step in putting murderous incitement by President Duterte and his administration to an end,” Callamard said in her Twitter post.
The @ICC Prosecution has found that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the Crime Against Humanity of Murder was committed from at least 1 July 2016 to 16 March 2019 in the context of the #Philippine government’s “war on drugs” campaign https://t.co/a3XsSOf6OY
— Agnes Callamard (@AgnesCallamard) June 14, 2021
In a statement, Param-Preet Singh, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch, said that “Duterte’s presumption of impunity for these crimes was dealt a blow today after a request by ICC Prosecutor Bensouda to open an investigation into possible crimes against humanity. If approved, it could bring victims and survivors closer to seeing those responsible for their suffering finally brought to justice.”
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers President Edre Olalia quipped, “It was all worth the wait, notwithstanding the long nights of grief and grim days of fear. Indeed, there will be justice somewhere, somehow. One step at a time.”
Policy of the state
Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan, said that Bensouda’s conclusions only “makes clear that these killings appear to have been committed pursuant to an official State policy of the Philippine government along with Philippine authorities’ failure to take meaningful steps to investigate or prosecute perpetrators — highlighting the sheer limitations and failure, if not virtual non-existence, of domestic and independent mechanisms of accountability.”
The group is now urging the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber to grant Bensouda’s request. They also called on incoming ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan to pursue the investigation into the human rights crisis in the Philippines and to hold Duterte and all officials involved in the drug war accountable for their crimes against the Filipino people.
According to the briefer by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers-Panay, if the request made by Bensouda is granted by the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber I, the investigation could cover crimes against humanity and other related crimes committed in the context of the war on drugs from November 1, 2011 to March 16, 2019. The period covers the drug-related killings in Davao City when Duterte was the Mayor of the city and when the Philippines became a state party to the Rome Statute.
Callamard pointed out that further action is needed beyond the investigation of the ICC. She said that the “international community must now reinforce the ICC’s investigation, by mandating a long overdue UN led investigation, at the Human Rights Council. Last year, the HRC failed to act on the findings of massive crimes.”
Further action is needed beyond the ICC. The international community must now reinforce the ICC’s investigation, by mandating a long overdue UN led investigation, at the Human Rights Council. Last year, the HRC failed to act on the findings of massive crimes.
— Agnes Callamard (@AgnesCallamard) June 14, 2021
Callamard is referring to the HRC’s resolution during its 45th session which only sought to extend technical assistance to the Philippines instead of investigating rights violations stated in the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) report last year.
Pasco of Rise Up for Life and for Rights thanked those who have supported them in their journey for attaining justice.
“There is slight fear because we all know what this cruel administration does to those who dare to dissent. But our fears also diminish because we know that we are not alone in this fight,” Pasco said.