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Citing delays and inaction in PH, drug war victims back resumption of ICC probe

Victims of the Duterte administration's drug war are urging the International Criminal Court's (ICC) Appeals Chamber to confirm the Pre-Trial Chamber's decision authorizing the investigation into the alleged abuses committed during the campaign.

The Appeals Chamber last March allowed the victims to provide their views and concerns regarding the Philippine government's appeal against the resumption of the investigation.

According to a submission to the Appeals Chamber showing the result of the consultation process conducted by the Victims Participation and Reparations Section (VPRS), "all representations received request the Chamber to confirm the Article 18(2) Decision," which calls for the resumption of the probe.

"[J]ustice and accountability in the Philippines remain largely elusive and victims and victims’ families face enormous difficulties in seeking accountability using available domestic legal remedies," the filing said, quoting the victims.

"Therefore, all victims represented support an ICC investigation into the crimes committed."

The victims reportedly said there has been no prospect of genuine investigations and prosecutions in the Philippines, noting the continued lack of investigations and prosecutions of their cases, some of which dating back to 2016.

They also pointed out that legal cases against the suspects and perpetrators of the crimes have not been forthcoming.

“The situation in the Philippines has not materially improved for the
victims represented. If any, gains have been isolated and marginal. The
families of victims still largely rely [Redacted] to help cushion the economic and social impact of the crimes committed while justice remains out of reach," the submission, dated May 22, 2023, quoted one of the victims as saying.

The victims believed that the supposed inaction and delay "respectively illustrate that the Philippine government is unwilling to investigate and prosecute the crimes committed in the war on drugs."

"The delay in justice for the victims of the war on drugs only contributes to the continued impunity enjoyed by low-level state actors and causes the re-traumatization and fatigue of the victims," the record states.

Department of Justice spokesperson Mico Clavano said the investigation takes time "because of the discomfort in the past."

“Now that the administration has changed, obviously, we have to gain the trust. And I think since day one, we have been doing a great job in making ourselves available to all the witnesses, to all those victims,” he said in a Zoom interview.

“And I think if the same evidence and the same people had approached the DOJ and the legal authorities here in the Philippines, that we would be able to process that information, process that evidence in order to get to the bottom and to hold those people who were involved in the abuses during the drug war accountable for their actions,” he added.

GMA News Online has reached out to Harry Roque, the presidential spokesperson during the Duterte administration, and Senator Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa, the national police chief when the drug war was implemented, and will post their comments once they are available.


The victims also lamented that the supposed inaction to prosecute continues under the Marcos administration, saying that "there is no prospect for victims to obtain justice at the domestic level."

"In their submission, no investigations or prosecutions are being conducted into alleged war on drugs related crimes committed under the former administration or the current one," the filing reads.

"Moreover, victims report that prior to the issuance of the Article 18(2) Decision, local authorities would mostly pressure victims’ families not to file cases in relation to war on drug related crimes."

Meanwhile, the submission said the victims and their families continue to fear retaliation for trying to pursue justice domestically or before the international court.

GMA News Online has reached out to Malacañang for comment regarding the victims' views on the drug war but it has yet to respond as of posting time.

The Philippines withdrew from the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, in March 2019, under then-President Rodrigo Duterte, the architect of the drug war. —with Joahna Lei Casilao/KBK/VBL, GMA Integrated News