Philippines president declines cooperation with ICC’s drug probe News
OSeveno, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Philippines president declines cooperation with ICC’s drug probe

Philippines President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. reaffirmed on Tuesday that the country would not cooperate with the investigation undertaken by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into the previous administration’s “war on drugs,” led by its former president Rodrigo Duterte, which allegedly took the lives of over 12,000 Filipinos.

The Philippines became a party to the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the ICC, in November 2011. However, it withdrew from it in 2018 in accordance with Article 127 of the statute. The withdrawal became effective in May 2019.

Marcos emphasized that the nation’s law enforcement and investigative bodies are fully capable of conducting a thorough examination of the matter. He views the ICC’s investigation as a threat to their national sovereignty. While suggesting that ICC investigators are welcome to visit as “ordinary individuals,” he clarified that the government would not assist them in their inquiries.

In 2018, the Office of the Prosecutor initiated a preliminary examination into the reported crimes in the Philippines since 2016, conducted under the guise of an anti-narcotics campaign undertaken by the government of that time. The allegations included extrajudicial killings of individuals purportedly involved in illegal drug activities. According to the Rome Statute, national jurisdictions are primarily responsible for investigating and prosecuting individuals responsible for international crimes. Following the commencement of the preliminary examination, the Philippines subsequently withdrew from the statute.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) maintains that the withdrawal of a state does not impact ongoing investigations. In a 2017 ruling concerning alleged crimes in Burundi, Pre-Trial Chamber III affirmed the ICC’s authority to exercise jurisdiction over crimes committed during a state’s period as a party to the Rome Statute, even after its withdrawal from the treaty.

In 2021, the Pre-Trial Chamber granted the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) the authority. Following this, the government submitted a deferral request under Article 18(2), leading to a temporary suspension of the OTP’s investigation.

In June 2022, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) submitted a request to the Pre-Trial Chamber (PTC) to recommence its investigation. Despite the government’s opposition and commitment to investigate the crimes, the PTC granted authorization based on the principle of complementarity, emphasizing respect for the primary jurisdiction of States and considerations of efficiency and effectiveness. In response to the resumption decision, the government filed a notice of appeal, citing temporal jurisdiction, which refers to the court’s jurisdiction over a specific time frame during which the alleged actions occurred. However, the Appeal Chamber (AC) denied the appeal in July 2023 by a 3-2 vote.

The Philippines has reiterated its stance time and again that the ICC has no authority to conduct an investigation into the former president’s campaign against illegal drugs.