“We hope this is the beginning of the end to impunity. No one should be invincible and infallible. There is always a time for everything.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Rights organizations welcomed the Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court’s authorization to commence with the investigation on drug-related killings in the Philippines during the period of Nov. 1, 2011 and March 16, 2019.
The update was posted on Wednesday, Sept. 15 in the ICC website.
Llore Pasco Benedicto of Rise Up for Life and for Rights said this is definitely good news for mothers, who, like her, lost their sons in the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs.
“I was surprised at first because we were told that we might wait for at least 60 days (after the deadline of submission of representation). But it was decided early on,” said Benedicto.
She lamented that Duterte is somehow “fortunate” to undergo due process in the ICC, something that was denied from the thousands of victims killed under his so-called “war on drugs.”
“At least the ICC is giving him a chance to defend himself unlike his victims who were condemned without trial. They were killed instantly upon orders of the police,” she told Bulatlat in an interview.
Reaksyon ko sa disisyon ng International Criminal Court na imbestigahan si Pres. Duterte sa kaniyang crimes against humanity kaugnay ng drug war. pic.twitter.com/EOHS1jzmcP
— Neri Colmenares (@ColmenaresPH) September 15, 2021
For former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, the development is a major step towards justice for the victims and their families in the Philippines.
He said that this only reaffirms the families and victims’ decision to file a case against Duterte in the ICC. “Because they will not attain justice here in the Philippines under Duterte. He attacks his critics left and right. Pero pag siya na ang kakasuhan, duwag siyang nagtatago sa presidential immunity niya,” he said.
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general also said, “The Chamber’s view that these attacks were widespread and systematic likewise reaffirms the views of victims and their families. Duterte and his cohorts should be made accountable for these crimes.”
According to its statement, “Chamber found that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation, noting that specific legal element of the crime against humanity of murder under Article 7(1)(a) of the Statute has been met…”
“The Chamber emphasised that, based on the facts as they emerge at the present stage and subject to proper investigation and further analysis, the so-called ‘war on drugs’ campaign cannot be seen as a legitimate law enforcement operation, and the killings neither as legitimate nor as mere excesses in an otherwise legitimate operation,” the statement read.
It added, “Rather, the available material indicates, to the required standard, that a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population took place pursuant to or in furtherance of a State policy, within the meaning of Article 7(1) and (2)(a) of the Statute.”
Prior to this recent decision of the Chamber, the ICC’s Victims Participation and Reparations Section (VPRS) noted that the representation it received overwhelmingly support the Office of the Prosecutor’s request for an investigation.
Expect full cooperation of victims, families, support groups in ICC investigation
It is with overwhelming joy and trepidation that we, with the families of victims of the “war on drugs”, step into the next stage of the ICC proceedings. + pic.twitter.com/ZdY01cjjcY
— Kristina Conti (@chronikrissys) September 16, 2021
While the Philippines formally withdrew from the Rome Statute in March 2018, the ICC still proceeded with the cases filed by the victims covering the period when the Philippines was still a State party to the Rome Statute.
The Philippine government’s withdrawal took effect on March 17, 2019.
“He (Duterte) thought that with his withdrawal from the ICC, we will stop? We won’t. The organizations and the lawyers have supported us in pursuing this case,” Benedicto said.
In a statement, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyer President Edre U. Olalia hoped that “this is the beginning of the end to impunity. No one should be invincible and infallible. There is always a time for everything.”
For Benedicto, the news is like “the sun finally coming out although not yet entirely.”