The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Tuesday, January 15, urged the Duterte government to participate in the International Criminal Court's (ICC) possible next steps after Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda sought an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity committed under the war on drugs.
In a statement, CHR Spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said that the administration's involvement "in this process of seeking truth and justice" is important.
"There is a need for the present administration to demonstrate genuine openness, transparency, and cooperation in its engagement with human rights investigation and accountability mechanisms, including that of the UN (United Nations) system, in improving the human rights situation in the country," she said.
Outgoing ICC Prosecutor Bensouda on Monday, June 14, announced that her office has applied with the pre-trial chamber for an authorization to open its investigation into the widespread killings in Duterte’s drug war.
In the document her office filed on May 24, Bensouda said that extrajudicial killings were carried out “pursuant to an official State policy of the Philippine government.” She added that they “appear to be a defining characteristic” of Duterte’s flagship program.
“Police and other government officials planned, ordered, and sometimes directly perpetrated extrajudicial killings,” Bensouda said.
The ICC prosecutor also seeks to investigate the killings allegedly carried out by the notorious Davao Death Squad (DDS) from 2011 to 2016, prior to Duterte’s presidency.
CHR, the country’s national human rights institution mandated to investigate abuses by the state, has been left out of the Duterte government’s much vaunted drug war review panel despite promises of the Department of Justice.
The commission also continues to face challenges in the conduct of its own probes, stemming from non-cooperation by the Philippine National Police. To date, state officials are yet to share with CHR crucial documents on drug war killings.
"CHR remains to look forward to more meaningful engagements in demonstrating the rule of law in the country, including being able to have access to cases of said killings in the country for our own independent probe," De Guia said.
Duterte's bloody war on drugs has led to at least 6,117 killed in police operations as of April 30, 2021, while human rights groups estimate the number to be between 27,000 to 30,000 to include victims of vigilante-style killings.
The drug war’s constitutionality is also being questioned before the Supreme Court. A Rappler investigation found that the case has been stalled by the Duterte government's submission of "rubbish" files. – Rappler.com
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.