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MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) hopes that it will soon be involved in the Marcos administration’s investigation into killings committed under former president Rodrigo Duterte’s violent war on drugs.
CHR Chairperson Richard Palpal-latoc on Thursday, December 14, said the commission is still out of the loop when it comes to the drug war review panel initiated by the Duterte-era Department of Justice (DOJ).
“Sa ngayon, wala pa kaming engagement with the DOJ. Actually finollow up ko na rin siya with the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat,” he told reporters. “Hopefully by next year, maging active na ang ating engagement doon.”
(Right now, we still have no engagement with the DOJ. I actually followed up already with the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat. Hopefully by next year, we’ll have more active engagement.)
The review panel was initiated in 2020 in response to heightened scrutiny of Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, particularly from the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Duterte administration used this panel to shield itself from stronger actions from international bodies, including the United Nations.
The continued exclusion of the CHR from the Marcos administration’s probe into drug war killings mirrors what happened under Duterte, where the national human rights institution was not given a chance to participate in the panel. A May 2022 report by the CHR stated that its investigations were “hampered by the predilection and uncooperativeness” of government agencies.
Engagement with ICC?
The CHR’s wish for more active participation in the drug war review panel comes as the Marcos administration has changed its tune regarding the ICC, indicating openness to cooperation after previously denouncing the international tribunal. The ICC is investigating possible crimes against humanity committed under the drug war as well as the killings in Davao City when Duterte was mayor.
Non-opposition lawmakers have urged the government to cooperate with the ICC, while Marcos himself said rejoining the ICC is being studied. Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra, who was Duterte’s justice secretary, also now does “not see any reason why [the ICC] should be prevented from coming in.”
The proceedings at the ICC have reached a level where the next possible stage could be for Prosecutor Karim Khan to either request an arrest warrant or a summons if there are enough grounds.
The CHR’s Palpal-latoc said the ICC has not reached out for any possible assistance, but reiterated the commission’s “consistent position” that the Marcos administration should engage with the court.
“We’re encouraging the government to participate and cooperate with the ICC investigation and also to rejoin the ICC, the Rome Statute,” he said.
Government data shows at least 6,252 individuals have been killed in police anti-drug operations alone as of May 2022. This number does not include those killed vigilante-style, which human rights groups estimate to be between 27,000 and 30,000. Documents obtained by Rappler, however, show that 7,884 drug suspects had been killed in police operations by August 31, 2020.
Only three cases have led to a conviction seven years since Duterte started his drug war, and a year and a half into the Marcos presidency. – Rappler.com