By John Victor D. Ordoñez, Reporter
THE BIGGEST labor coalition in the Philippines on Sunday urged the government of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. to cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) probe of his predecessor’s deadly war on drugs, saying the tribunal has the authority to probe abuses during the period.
“The ICC’s intervention does not mean that the Philippine justice system is incapable of delivering justice,” Nagkaisa said in a statement.
“It only means that the ICC is stepping in, due to a special circumstance because the domestic justice system has failed to hold perpetrators accountable and provide justice to victims of extrajudicial killings related to the anti-drug war,” it added.
Last month, the ICC pre-trial chamber reopened its investigation into the killings and so-called crimes against humanity under ex-President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s anti-illegal drug campaign
The Hague-based tribunal said it was not satisfied with Philippine efforts to probe the deaths.
Mr. Marcos on Saturday called the ICC’s probe a threat to the country’s sovereignty, saying the international tribunal did not have jurisdiction over the Philippines.
“I have stated it often, even before I took office as president, that there are many questions about their jurisdiction and what can be — what we in the Philippines regard as an intrusion into our internal matters and a threat to our sovereignty,” he told reporters.
He said the Philippines has a working justice system that can hold erring officials accountable.
In a decision on Feb. 17, the ICC appeals chamber granted the Philippine government’s request for more time to file its appeal to suspend the probe. It gave the country up to March 13.
ICC prosecutor Karim Ahmad A. Khan had asked the international court to deny the Philippines’ request, saying it did not raise arguments to justify halting the probe.
“The prosecution submits that granting suspensive effect is not necessary in the circumstances of this case,” he said in a five-page letter to the appeals chamber dated Feb. 16.
The international tribunal, which tries people charged with crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes and aggression, suspended its probe of Mr. Duterte’s deadly war on drugs in 2021 upon the Philippine government’s request.
It was also set to probe vigilante-style killings in Davao City when Mr. Duterte was still its vice mayor and mayor.
Nagkaisa said it was disappointed with former President and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s call to defend Mr. Duterte.
“It was during her time that capital punishment was abolished and this commitment to human rights and the rule of law is a legacy that the Philippines must uphold,” the labor group said.
Last week, Ms. Arroyo and more than a dozen congressmen filed a resolution seeking the “unequivocal defense” of Mr. Duterte.
The labor group cited government efforts to look into extralegal killings in the labor sector when it met with representatives from the International Labor Organization (ILO) who were looking into cases of violence and killings against workers.
Last month, Philippine trade unions told ILO officials in a joint report the Philippine government had failed to comply with international conventions on freedom of association and the right to organize.
“The government should be consistent with its commitment to serve justice for slain workers and their families by accepting the ICC investigation with open arms,” Nagkaisa said.
“The ICC is a threat to mass murderers, despots and tyrants, not to Philippine sovereignty per se,” Maria Kristina C. Conti, secretary general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers in Metro Manila and legal counsel for several victims of the drug war, said in an e-mail.
“Filipinos, victims of the war on drugs, asked for the international court and community to step in because our government could not and would not give them genuine justice here.”
Ephraim B. Cortez, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, said the ICC could still investigate Mr. Duterte over drug war abuses since they happened before the Philippines withdrew from the ICC in 2018.
“The process for withdrawal is explicitly laid down in the Rome Statute and the Philippine government is supposed to be aware of this when they ratified it,” he said in a Viber message.
Mr. Marcos has said the Philippines would not rejoin the international court.
Mr. Cortez said House support for Mr. Duterte showed the Philippine government’s failure to provide relief to the families of drug war victims.
At least 6,117 suspected drug dealers had been killed in police operations, according to data released by the Philippine government in June 2021. Human rights groups estimate that as many as 30,000 suspects died.
The Philippine Human Rights Commission has said the Duterte government had encouraged a culture of impunity by hindering independent inquiries and failing to prosecute erring cops.
“President Marcos is duty-bound to protect the father of a major player in the Marcos bloc — Vice-President Sara Duterte-Carpio,” Arjan P. Aguirre, who teaches political science at the Ateneo de Manila University, said in a Facebook Messenger chat. “He is aware too that people still support Duterte and that also helped him in the May 2022 elections.”
More than 30 member-states of the United Nations Human Rights Council in November urged the Philippine government to do something about extralegal killings in connection with Mr. Duterte’s anti-illegal drug campaign.
The Philippines has accepted 200 recommendations from the UN Human Rights Council, including investigating extralegal killings and protecting journalists and activists.
“The ICC’s investigation is not a threat to Philippine sovereignty,” Nagkaisa said. “Rather, it will strengthen respect for human rights in the country as well, as it is a legitimate exercise of the ICC of its mandate under the Rome Statute, to which the Philippines was once a signatory.”