U.N. report: PH local system not enough to exact accountability for killings

Lian Buan

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

U.N. report: PH local system not enough to exact accountability for killings

Alecs Ongcal

This is noteworthy because to open a formal investigation, where summonses and arrest orders can be issued, the ICC must establish that the Philippines is unable or unwilling to investigate on its own

MANILA, Philippines – T
he United Nations Human Rights Office said in its awaited report that the Philippines’ local systems have so far failed in exacting accountability for the more than 20,000 deaths in President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

“Given the widespread and systematic nature of the alleged killings, and the failure of domestic mechanisms to ensure accountability thus far, there have been strong calls for an international accountability mechanism,” the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN OHCHR) said in its 26-page report released Thursday, June 4.

This is noteworthy because to be able to open a formal investigation, the International Criminal Court (ICC) must establish that the Philippines is unwilling or unable to investigate the killings on its own.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has said that she will come out with that determination in 2020, but in a report in December, she said “open source information indicates that a limited number of investigations and prosecutions have been initiated (and, in some cases, completed) at the national level.”

Rappler’s analysis found that the Duterte government has allowed thousands of the killings to go unsolved, owing to the systematic gaps at the police and prosecutorial levels.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has prosecuted only a few among the thousands of drug war killings, even though it is mandated by its manual to open an investigation as soon as there is a dead body found.

The DOJ passed the buck to the Philippine National Police (PNP) and said there must be complaints filed first, but the police cited presumption of regularity at least in the killings in police operations.

The OHCHR report also found that in dozens of police operations where cops killed drug suspects because of alleged resistance and fighting back, guns that were allegedly seized from the suspects bore similar serial numbers, suggesting a pattern of planting evidence.

Cases were filed against policemen involved in killings before the Office of the Ombudsman, but the OHCHR said there was “lack of progress.”

“OHCHR also notes the lack of progress in the investigation of anti-illegal drug campaign related cases referred to the Office of the Ombudsman,” said the report.

ICC action

“The High Commissioner again emphasizes the need for independent, impartial and effective investigations into the killings and stands ready to assist credible efforts towards accountability at the national and international level,” said the OHCHR report.

“We hope this Report is also taken into account and consideration by the International Criminal Court,” said Edre Olalia of the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines. 

If she decides to open an investigation, Bensouda will seek the authority of the pre-trial chamber or PTC of the ICC. Once granted, the PTC judges can issue summons and even arrest orders.

Several communications filed with the ICC named Duterte as respondent, as well as former police chief and now senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa.

Duterte has withdrawn the Philippines from the ICC in a unilateral decision being contested at the Supreme Court, but the ICC has asserted its authority to carry on with the examination, citing the Rome Statute. – Rappler.com

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.