International Criminal Court

ICC prosecutor opposes PH appeal to suspend probe into drug war killings

Jairo Bolledo

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ICC prosecutor opposes PH appeal to suspend probe into drug war killings

PROBE. File photo of ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan.

International Criminal Court

The ICC appeals chamber also extends the deadline for the Philippines to submit its more detailed petition against the resumption of the probe

MANILA, Philippines – International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan has asked the ICC’s appeals chamber to deny the Philippine government’s request to suspend the probe into drug war killings under the administration of former president Rodrigo Duterte.

In his five-page response, Khan argued that granting the petition is not needed because the Philippine government has yet to substantiate its argument on why the probe should be suspended.

“The Prosecution submits that granting suspensive effect is not necessary in the circumstances of this case. The Philippines has not provided any argument substantiating its request for suspensive effect, nor shown that implementation of the decision would create an irreversible situation or one that would be very difficult to correct or that could potentially defeat the purpose of the appeal,” the ICC prosecutor said in the document.

On February 8, the Philippines, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), formally notified the ICC that it will appeal the court’s decision to allow the resumption of the investigation. The Philippine government, headed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., a Duterte ally, also asked the ICC to suspend the probe.

The ICC had moved to resume the probe on January 26.

In his latest move, Khan also noted that granting the appeal of the Philippines will affect the probe.

“The granting of suspensive effect leads to the ‘non-enforcement of a decision, the subject of the appeal.’ In this case, the Philippines seeks suspension of the decision authorizing the Prosecution to resume its investigation in the Philippines under article 18(2). If suspensive effect is granted, the Prosecution would be required to suspend its investigation pending the resolution of the Philippines’ appeal against the Decision,” Khan explained.

Extended deadline

Meanwhile, in a decision dated February 17, the ICC appeals chamber allowed the Philippines to file its appeal brief – or more detailed appeal as to why the proceedings should be suspended – until March 13. Presiding Judge Marc Perrin de Brichambaut made the decision.

According to the chamber, the Philippine government filed an application for extension of time to submit the comprehensive appeal on February 15. The ICC appeals chamber, in its response, said it may extend the deadline if “good cause is shown.”

“The Appeals Chamber considers that the Republic of the Philippines has provided valid reasons in support of its Application. In particular, it notes the new administration’s logistical and administrative constraints,” the decision read.

In seeking the extension, the Philippine government said that the OSG was still awaiting the reply of other Philippine government agencies on its request for a status update on the “pending investigations,” and that it would need “additional time to assess the relevance” of these documents once received.

It also noted that since the Philippines has a new president, the heads of the concerned governments agencies are newly appointed so the Marcos administration faced “challenges in gathering comprehensive data and relevant records due to logistical and administrative constraints.”

The Philippine government told the ICC that “the process of complying with internal requirements for engaging the services of an external counsel or consultant to assist the [Republic of the Philippines] in this appeal…will take some time beyond the 21-day period to file an appeal brief.”

The arguments were raised over seven months into the Marcos administration.

Duterte’s successor had already made it clear that he had no plans for the Philippines to rejoin the ICC. Marcos’ top officials such as Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla has also opposed the probe. But despite these, the Philippines continues to communicate with the ICC – in some way – by following some proceedings like appeals.

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Deputy Speaker and former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and other lawmakers have urged the House of Representatives to “defend” Duterte against the ICC probe. But rights groups in the Philippines branded the lawmakers’ move as a “grave insult” to drug war victims.

Duterte is at the center of the probe for the thousands killed under his bloody drug war and for the Davao Death Squad killings during his watch as Davao City mayor. –

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.