The International Criminal Court's Office of the Prosecutor recently announced that it has sought permission to probe into President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war. Just days after that, the Philippines witnessed reports of cops killing a 16-year-old boy and a companion in an anti-illegal drug operation in Laguna, as well as reports of three people from the Lumad-Manobo tribe being killed by the military in Surigao del Sur, among others.
In response, the #CourageON: No Lockdown on Rights, a broad coalition of human rights groups, released the following statement on Tuesday, June 22.
Pursue the ICC investigation amid the endless killings since 2016! Stop the killings!
In Duterte’s war on drugs, justice was the first casualty.
This is why we express our full support to the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) efforts to launch an open investigation against President Rodrigo Duterte over his bloody anti-illegal drugs campaign. ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda reported that “the total number of civilians killed in connection with the war on drugs [appears to be] between 12,000 and 30,000.” We call on the Duterte administration to cooperate with the ICC if it indeed stands for justice.
Achieving justice for the thousands of lives lost in Duterte's drug war will not be easy and fast but the ICC investigation may provide the first step toward this long and arduous process.
In June of 2016, when Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte assumed the presidency, he brought with him the promise of eradicating the country’s drug problem. His assumption of power signalled the beginning of his drug war, a brutal anti-drug campaign that would eventually paint the country’s streets with the blood of tens of thousands of Filipinos, according to human rights groups.
Instead of treating and approaching the drug problem as a health issue, it has resulted instead in the loss of over 6,000 individuals and destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of families. While we agree that the first casualty was justice, another casualty was public health and the way we ought to address the drug problem.
Five years later, we remain uncertain of the true extent of the ongoing campaign; independent investigations into the operations are frustrated by some sectors within the government, such as the Philippine National Police which submitted “rubbish” case files before the Supreme Court, and President Rodrigo Duterte for his statements that extol the drug-related killings.
The war on drugs has targeted, killed, and denied justice to many basic sectors of the Philippine society such as farmers, workers, indigenous people, women, media, the youth, LGBTQIA+ persons, and many others. It has also suppressed access to vital information that allows accountability and prosecution against perpetrators of the killings. These consciously discredit the collective effort of the Filipino people and legitimate calls to demand for accountability measures and everyone's basic rights that this administration cannot uphold.
This uncertainty of attaining justice, in itself, is an affront to the Filipino people. We call on our fellow human rights advocates to stay vigilant on developments in the ICC probe and continue shining a light on the human rights abuses in the Philippines. We vehemently refuse to allow the victims to be reduced to mere statistics and tallies. It is high time that Duterte and his state forces pay their dues for the blood on their hands and for the impunity they have enjoyed these past years.
The people will have their justice!
#CourageON: No Lockdown On Rights! – Rappler.com
ASEAN SOGIE Caucus
Ateneo Human Rights Center
Coalition for People's Right to Health
College Editors Guild of the Philippines
Concerned Artists of the Philippines
DLSU University Student Government
Gender and Development Advocates (GANDA) Filipinas
In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND)
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment
LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights)
Metro Manila Pride
National Union of Students of the Philippines