By pleading with the International Criminal Court (ICC) to suspend its investigation into President Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, the Philippine government in effect recognizes its jurisdiction although it has withdrawn its ICC membership.

This was how former senator Antonio Trillanes IV saw the ICC decision to suspend its investigation into suspected rights abuses committed under Duterte’s “war on drugs” following a request from Manila. The Hague-based court authorized an inquiry into the campaign that has left thousands of people dead, saying it resembled an illegitimate and systematic attack on civilians.

According to court documents, Philippine Ambassador Eduardo Malaya requested a deferral.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate and Trillanes said the decision was just part of “ICC procedure to afford due process to the Philippine government.”

“It is the same due process that was denied to thousands of ordinary Filipinos who were slaughtered in Duterte’s war on drugs,” said Zarate.

This is why, Zarate said, “those responsible for this bloody crime against humanity should not rejoice just yet.”

In a separate statement, Trillanes said “this is just part of the ICC’s due process to determine if the government’s extra-judicial killings investigation is genuine but we all know that it is not.”

Both Zarate and Trillanes are confident that the ICC will eventually see that the Duterte administration’s so-called investigation is but a “complete fraud” and “cover-up.”

Trillanes said this was why “in a few months” he expects the ICC to resume its investigation. “Those responsible may have delayed the proceedings now but they cannot forever avoid the long arms of justice from catching up with them,” Zarate said.

ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan wrote in a court notification November 18: “The prosecution has temporarily suspended its investigative activities while it assesses the scope and effect of the deferral request.” 

Khan said the prosecution would request additional information from the Philippines.

Despite the reprieve, Acting Malacañang spokesman Karlo Alexei Nograles, reiterated the Philippine government’s position that the ICC “has no jurisdiction over it.”

Nograles clarified that this, however, “does not preclude the government from communicating with the ICC, and it should be stressed that the government’s communication to the ICC was conditioned on the fact that in making that communication the Philippine government was not waiving its position regarding the ICC’s lack of jurisdiction.”

“In any event, we welcome the judiciousness of the new ICC prosecutor, who has deemed it fit to give the matter a fresh look and we trust that the matter will be resolved in favor of the exoneration of our government and the recognition of the vibrancy of our justice system,” Nograles said.

In his letter requesting a deferral, Ambassador Malaya said the Philippine government was investigating the alleged crimes against humanity committed during the drug war.

He said the Philippine government “has undertaken, and continues to undertake, thorough investigations of all reported deaths during anti-narcotic operations in the country.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) dismissed the claim that the Philippines’ existing domestic mechanisms afford citizens justice as “absurd” and an attempt to stave off the ICC probe.

“Only 52 out of thousands of killings are in early stages of investigation. Despite many clear-cut cases of murder, no charges have even been filed,” HRW Asia Director Brad Adams tweeted. 

“The reality is that impunity is the norm under President Duterte, which is why the ICC needs to investigate. Let’s hope the ICC sees through the ruse that it is.”360p 

According to him, the Justice department informed the PNP during their meeting last Friday that the cases will be endorsed to the NBI if warranted by the evidence.

“The PNP and the DoJ are one in the belief that the war against drugs could be won without the use of excessive force and unnecessary loss of lives,” he said.

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