The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is looking to finish in 2020 its preliminary examination of the allegations against President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.
This developed as the ICC prosecutor said that office had received allegations that law enforcers raped women with ties to drug suspects.
In its Report on Preliminary Examination Activities for 2019 dated December 5, the office also cited reports of abuses being committed against drug suspects before getting killed "by state actors and other uidentified assailants."
"During the reporting period, the Office significantly advanced its assessment of whether there is a reasonable basis to proceedunder article 15(3)of the Statute," the report said.
"During 2020, the Office will aim to finalize the preliminary examination in order to enable the prosecutor to reach a decision on whether to seek authorization to open an investigation into the situation in the Philippines," it added.
GMA News Online has reached out to the Philippine National Police for comment.
ICC investigators barred
The Philippines on March 17, 2018 informed the United Nations that it was withdrawing from the Rome Statute on the ICC. The withdrawal took effect a year later.
The ICC, however, retained jurisdiction over the complaints filed against the government under Duterte.
"Furthermore, the exercise of the court's jurisdiction (i.e. the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed up to and including March 16, 2019) is not subject to any time limit," the prosecutor's report said.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said ICC personnel could visit the Philippines as tourists but warned that they would be deported if they would proceed with the investigation on the war on drugs.
“I’ll smile at them and tell them nicely ‘you can’t do it here. If you persist you will be deported. You will be violating [our sovereignty],’” Panelo said.
“The Immigration officials have the discretion to deny you entry if they feel na ang gagawin mo rito eh either labag sa batas o manggugulo ka lang dito,” he added.
Despite the Duterte administration's stance, the report said the ICC prosecutor had looked into the information available to determine whether the alleged conduct of state actors and other individuals, such as vigilantes, "amounted to the crimes against humanity of murder, torture, other inhumane acts or rape."
"Such analysis was conducted with a view to identifying potential cases likely to arise from any potential investigation into the situation and the persons or groups of persons who may bear the greatest responsibility for the identified alleged crimes," the report said.
In addition to killings, the prosecutor said the office had received information on some individuals being subjected to "serious ill-treatment and abuses prior to being killed by state actors and other unidentified assailants, such as after being arrested or abducted and while being held in custody prior their deaths."
"It has also been alleged that in several incidents, relatives (such as spouses, parents or children) of the victims witnessed the killings, thereby sustaining serious mental suffering," the report read.
"Further, it has been reported that in at least a few incidents, members of law enforcement raped women who were apparently targeted because of their personal relationships to individuals alleged to have been involved in drug activities," it added.
The report said majority of the victims had been from poor communities especially those within urban areas, such as in locations within the Metro Manila, Central Luzon,Central Visayas, and Calabarzon regions, among others.
"In addition, it has been reported that some public officials, including civil servants, politicians, mayors, deputy mayors and barangay-level officials, and current and former members of law enforcement were allegedly killed because of their purported links to the illegal drug trade," the report said.
"According to the information available, many of the persons targeted overall by the alleged acts had been included on drug watch lists compiled by national and/or local authorities, and some of those targeted also included persons who had previously ‘surrendered’ to the police in connection to Oplan Tokhang," it added.
Threats vs. rights defender
The report said the prosecutor had also been following with concern reports of threats and other measures apparently taken against human rights defenders, including those who have criticized the WoD campaign.
"The Office will continue to closely monitor such reports, as well as other relevant developments in the Philippines," it said.
Duterte recently criticized opposition leader Vice President Leni Robredo, when she was still a co-chair of the Inter-Agency Council on Anti-Illegal Drugs, for supposedly inviting an ICC prosecutor into the country.
Robredo denied the allegation but was eventually sacked just 19 days after her appointment.
One of the reasons given for her termination from the job was her meeting with United States and United Nations representatives as regards the war on drugs. —NB, GMA News