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ICC prosecutor gets approval to reopen Philippines drug war probe

2023-01-27T04:46:08Z

Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Ronald dela Rosa with police Senior Superintendent Graciano Mijares (R), newly-appointed head of the PNP drug enforcement group, during the re-launch of police anti-narcotics operations at a news conference inside the police headquarters in Quezon city, metro Manila, Philippines March 6, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco/File Photo

The chief enforcer of former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal ‘war on drugs’ said on Friday he would cooperate with an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation if the government decided to participate.

The ICC on Thursday said it had granted its prosecutor’s request to reopen an investigation into drug war killings and other suspected rights abuses. The court suspended the probe in November 2021 at Manila’s request after the country said it was implementing its own investigations and prosecutions.

“If the Philippine government would cooperate, then, I am a part of the…government, so I will cooperate,” Ronaldo dela Rosa, a former police chief who is now a senator told ANC News channel.

Dela Rosa, who oversaw Duterte’s anti-narcotics crackdown, which resulted in the deaths of more than 6,200 people, mostly small-time drug dealers, said he saw no problem if the government cooperated. “All my action will be in consonance with the decision of this government.”

There was no immediate comment from the office of President Ferdinand Marcos and the justice ministry.

Marcos in August said he had no intention of rejoining the ICC after Duterte, whose daughter is the country’s current vice president, pulled out of the court in 2019. Duterte said at the time the ICC had no right to meddle in his country’s affairs.

In a statement, the ICC said it was “not satisfied that the Philippines is undertaking relevant investigations that would warrant a deferral of the investigation.”

The court said that the actions by Philippine authorities did not amount to “tangible, concrete and progressive investigative steps in a way that would sufficiently mirror the Court’s investigation”.

Human Rights Watch said the ICC investigation was the only credible path to justice for victims and their families.

“As the court’s judges agreed, Philippine authorities are not ‘undertaking relevant investigations’ into these crimes or ‘making a real or genuine effort’ to carry these investigations out,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement. “The ICC offers a path forward to fill the accountability vacuum.”

Rights groups and critics say law enforcers summarily executed drug suspects. Police say those killed were armed and had violently resisted arrest. Meanwhile, the families of many drug war victims are still seeking justice in long, drawn-out cases.

In a rare conviction, a Philippine court in 2018 sentenced three police officers to up to 40 years in jail for the murder of a 17-year-old high school student. The teenager’s death featured in a report by a former ICC prosecutor.

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