MANILA, Philippines – Canada has urged the Philippines to uphold its commitments to international law and human rights, following the decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to resume its investigation into killings under the bloody drug war of former president Rodrigo Duterte.
The ICC’s latest decision, announced on January 26, followed more than a year of waiting after the court earlier paused its probe as a procedural response to the Philippine government’s request for a deferral in November 2021.
“If the Philippines believes in upholding international law, including things like UNCLOS (United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea) for example, then the Philippines must also abide by international law,” senior embassy officials told select Filipino journalists, including Rappler, during a briefing on Wednesday, February 1.
The senior officials agreed to speak to media on the issue on the condition their names will not be published.
The Philippine government has repeatedly argued that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the Philippines after it withdrew from the Rome Statute in 2018. Despite this, Article 127 of the treaty provided that proceedings prior to a country’s withdrawal from the court would remain valid – a similar position adopted by the Philippine Supreme Court.
Philippine officials likewise sought to draw attention to a local review of the drug war as proof that the Philippine justice system was willing and able to investigate on its own, though the ICC decided it has so far been insufficient.
In a pre-trial chamber report recently published, the ICC said that it “concluded that the various domestic initiatives and proceedings, assessed collectively, do not amount to tangible, concrete and progressive investigative steps in a way that would sufficiently mirror the Court’s investigation.”
Canada acknowledged this and urged the Philippine government to ensure accountability in its review of the drug war.
“It is not for us to make determinations about whether [they] should or should not (investigate). They have legal expertise, and the ICC has come to [the] conclusion that investigations underway here does not satisfy the need,” the senior officials said.
Marcos government ‘saying right things’
In keeping wit his predecessor, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has so far made no move to rejoin the ICC. Administration officials likewise earlier said that any development on the matter would first require “further consultations.”
Despite this, Marcos himself has projected a warmer attitude toward human rights before the international community and has said that while his government “cannot stop the drug war,” its focus would be more on prevention and rehabilitation rather than on law enforcement.
Canada recognized the new Marcos administration’s interest to act as a responsible member of the international community and also took note of the fact that the Philippines accepted 200 of 289 recommendations put forward by countries during a UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review in late 2022.
Still, it said it would continue to raise the issue of human rights with Philippine officials, when necessary.
“We are hearing all of the right things from the new administration about wanting to be a responsible member of the International community. We understand and will always respect countries’ domestic sovereignty but where we see issues that are of concern, any healthy adult relationship is one where you can discuss those issues,” the senior officials said.
They added: “A lot of the values which we espouse are going to be universal. They’re not western values. We don’t have expectations for others that we don’t hold ourselves.” – Rappler.com
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