Duterte faces new complaint before Int’l Criminal Court

Jodesz Gavilan

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Duterte faces new complaint before Int’l Criminal Court
Families of drug war victims tell the International Criminal Court that President Rodrigo Duterte must be 'held to account for crimes against humanity'

JUSTICE. Families seek justice for the deaths of their loved ones. Photo by Jodesz Gavilan/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Families left behind by people killed in the Philippine government’s bloody anti-drug campaign took their quest for justice to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

On Tuesday, August 28, the families who convened under the Rise Up for Life and for Rights network called on the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor to indict and eventually convict President Rodrigo Duterte for thousands of extrajudicial killings.

In a 50-page complaint addressed to Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, the families “call for an end to madness and for President Duterte, who has likened himself to one of the most evil men in history, to be brought before the ICC and be held to account for crimes against humanity.”

“The extrajudicial killings, mass arrests, roving searches, and other inhumane acts in the Philippines under the auspices, order, command, and policy of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte threaten the core principles of humanity itself, subsuming individual victim experiences, and even state borders,” the families told the ICC.

Aside from Rise Up, relatives of 6 victims are also named in the document – Irma Locasia, Dennise David, Maria Lozano, Mariel Sabangan, Normita Lopez, and Purisima Dacumos. They are represented by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL).

Hoping for progress at ICC

This is the latest complaint sent to the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor, which began a preliminary examination of the anti-drug campaign back in February. The office, at this stage, is determining if there is sufficient evidence to establish that the case falls under its jurisdiction.

Duterte, however, ordered the Philippines’ withdrawal from the ICC last March. This move is now the subject of oral arguments on Tuesday, August 28, at the Supreme Court (SC), after minority senators challenged its validity in May.

But the outcome of the petition at the SC would have no bearing on the preliminary examination at the ICC. Article 127 of the Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding document, states that any investigation or criminal proceeding that started before the withdrawal takes effect would still continue.

The timeline of the ICC’s preliminary examination is unknown, but NUPL chairperson Neri Colmenares hopes it would be completed soon. (READ: ICC’s track record and what it means for Duterte and the PH)

“We don’t know when the ICC will move forward, but we’re hoping this will happen before dumami pa ang mga mamatay (more people are killed),” Colmenares said.

“Malakas ang influence ni Pangulong Duterte na hindi mabigyan ng katarungan sa local courts ang mga biktima (President Duterte’s influence is so far-reaching that local courts would not be able to give justice to the victims).”

‘More than our loved ones’

The families’ quest for justice has now gone beyond their sons and husbands.

According to Dennise David, whose son John Jezreel David was killed in January 2017, he doesn’t want other families to suffer their ordeal.

“Ayaw kong maramdaman ng ibang magulang iyong naramdaman ko. Gusto ko matigil na itong pamamaslang na ito kasi hindi makatarungan,” he said.

(I don’t want other parents to feel what I feel. I want these killings to stop because it isn’t right.)

John Jezreel’s case is now pending before the Office of the Ombudsman. Since filing the case in September 2017, Dennise has left his home and fled to outside Metro Manila, sacrificing his livelihood and time with his family.

Dennise said: “Kailangan natin gawin iyon para makamit natin iyong katarungan. Hindi ako nagtatago kasi takot ako, proteksiyon rin ito para sa sarili ko kasi kung nawala ako, sino’ng lalaban para sa anak ko?”

(I have to do what I need to do to achieve justice. I’m not hiding because I’m afraid, I’m hiding to protect myself because if something happens to me, who will fight for my son?) – Rappler.com

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and impunity beats, producing in-depth and investigative reports particularly on the quest for justice of victims of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and war on dissent.