Outgoing Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Sunday said it is now up to the incoming Marcos administration to continue the review of the deaths as a result of the government’s anti-drug operations.
Guevarra is hoping that his successor, Cavite 7th District Rep. Jesus Crispin Remulla, will continue with the Department of Justice’s review of the drug war killings.
“I hope the incoming SOJ (secretary of justice) will complete what I’ve begun,” he said.
Guevarra issued this statement after Prosecutor Karim Khan of the International Criminal Court (ICC) said the Philippines did not seem to be investigating the killings in President Duterte’s bloody war on drugs to see if they were committed in line with state policy, or if higher officials were criminally liable.
“I respect his view but I think he should have waited for our own efforts to bear some fruit,” Guevarra said. “An investigation of this magnitude and complexity cannot be finished in a few months.”
On June 30, 2020, Guevarra told the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that the Philippine government is conducting “a judicious review of the 5,655 anti-illegal drug operations where deaths occurred.”
The anti-drug operations were conducted during the administration of President Duterte.
Earlier, the ICC prosecutor said he intends to resume his probe into the Philippine’s deadly drug war, saying a request by Manila to defer the probe was unjustified.
Khan had suspended the ICC investigation in November 2021 after the Philippines said it would look into the allegations itself.
“I have concluded that the deferral requested by the Philippines is not warranted, and that the investigation should resume as quickly as possible,” Khan said in a statement from The Hague.
Khan said he had asked judges at the court for authorization to restart the probe.
“In short, the deferral of the ICC investigation requested by the Philippines is not justified,” he added.
The announcement drew sharp rebuke from the Palace.
“For nth time, we express exasperation on the request of ICC prosecutor Karim Khan, even as it was suspended on the request of the Philippine government,” acting presidential spokesman Martin Andanar said in a statement.
“After all, reciprocity is a key principle in the methods of work of the ICC. To veer away from this principle will only reveal the politicization that has infiltrated the ICC’s ranks,” he added.
Andanar said the Duterte administration “has undertaken, through the Department of Justice, in partnership with the Philippine National Police, among others, investigations of all deaths that have arisen from lawful drug enforcement operations.”
He also said that while the ICC cited the report of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights in its call for intervention, the CHR did not imply a need for a direct external investigation.
“Surely, the CHR knows the implications of such intervention on state sovereignty, and we expect the ICC, especially Mr. Khan, to know that as well,” Andanar added.
Khan’s announcement came days before outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte steps down after six years in power.
The ICC authorized a full-blown investigation into the Philippines anti-narcotics campaign in September 2021, saying it resembled an illegitimate and systematic attack on civilians.
Rights groups said Duterte created a climate of impunity and estimated that tens of thousands have been killed by police, hitmen and vigilantes, even without proof they were involved in drugs.
The ICC, which only gets involved if member states are unable or unwilling to investigate, suspended the probe two months later afterManila said it was looking into the alleged crimes.
But Khan said on Friday that most of the details provided by the Philippines “do not seek to establish criminal responsibility and therefore cannot warrant deferral of the ICC’s criminal investigation.”
Proceedings mentioned by the Philippines also “fail to sufficiently mirror the authorized ICC investigation,” he said.
Militant lawmakers on Saturday welcomed Khan’s request to resume the probe. “We are glad that the ICC Prosecutor eventually concluded what we have been pointing out before that the so-called domestic accountability mechanism as far as this bloody war is concerned is clearly functioning and even is a big farce,” Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite said.
Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said the request “sustains the hope of Filipino women who were widowed under the ‘Tokhang’ operations.”