16 September 2021
It was newly-retired prosecutor Fatou Bensouda who asked the pre-trial chamber for authorization to open the investigation, which Malacañang persistently said would be denied, citing lack of jurisdiction.
In the decision, the pre-trial judges said Bensouda was able to sufficiently establish a pattern in the killings in Davao City when Duterte was mayor, up to the killings in the war on drugs when he was already president.
“In the assessment of the Chamber, there exists information sufficiently linking the killings in the Davao area in 2011-2016 to the relevant facts of the so-called ‘war on drugs’ campaign as discussed above,” said the pre-trial chamber.
The pre-trial chamber also said it would not be necessary at this stage to fully establish if the Davao City killings constitute crimes against humanity.
“What is important for the present decision is that, whichever the case may be, that it appears, on the basis of the supporting material, that the killings in the Davao area between 1 November 2011 and 30 June 2016 show a certain pattern and may constitute crimes against humanity within the jurisdiction of the Court,” said the pre-trial chamber.
Speaking for the Palace, Panelo said Malacañang stands firm on its stance that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the Philippines, claiming the Rome Statute which created the court “never took effect in the country” because it was never published on the Official Gazette.
However, lawyers’ groups have said such publication is not a requirement and that Republic Act 9851 or the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity (International Humanitarian Law Act) allows “our courts to try cases cognizable by the ICC under the principle of complementarity.”
The pre-trial chamber also took note of the representations submitted by victims. The representation process was a stage where victims sent in their concerns and expectations without necessarily indicating they were willing to participate in court proceedings.
The judges said that representations also alleged other crimes apart from murder, like sexual violence.
“A legal analysis undertaken by the Registry has categorized the assertions and identified other inhumane acts/torture, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty and enforced disappearance as the most commonly reported crimes other than murder. Moreover, the Chamber notes with particular attention that three representations reported sexual violence,” said the pre-trial judges.
Panelo insisted that the country’s justice system is able and willing to prosecute abusive law enforcers and officials “if only genuine complainants come forward to the proper authorities instead of personalities who will use their plight for political ambitions.”
He repeated the Malacañang accusation that the ICC is being politicized and used for “propaganda” by Duterte’s critics.
“While we expect that more theatrics will be employed by the detractors of the President as election season draws near, this blatant and brazen interference and assault on our sovereignty as an independent country by the ICC is condemnable,” said Panelo. Malacañang has previously vowed never to cooperate with ICC investigators on any probe it will conduct on the drug war. – with reports from Pia Ranada/Rappler.com