Rodrigo Duterte

After appeal rejected, Marcos claims PH ‘disengaging’ from ICC

Bea Cupin

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After appeal rejected, Marcos claims PH ‘disengaging’ from ICC

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. delivers a speech during the 126th founding anniversary of the Philippine Army at Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, on March 22, 2023.

Eloisa Lopez/Reuters

The ICC rejected the Philippine appeal to suspend an ongoing probe into former president Rodrigo Duterte's bloody war on drugs

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said the decision of International Criminal Court (ICC) to junk the government’s bid to suspend an ongoing probe into his predecessor’s bloody war on drugs “ends all our involvement with the ICC.” 

“In our view, there is nothing more that we can do in the government. And so at this point, we essentially are disengaging from any contact, from any communication I guess with the ICC,” he said in a chance interview on Tuesday, March 28, on the sidelines of a Pag-IBIG Fund event in Pasay City. 

In a decision dated Monday, March 27, the ICC appeal chamber thumbed down the Philippine bid, paving the way for ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan to continue investigating former president Rodrigo Duterte’s violent war on drugs, which claimed the lives of at least 6,252 individuals in police anti-illegal drug operations as of May 2022. Human rights groups estimate between 27,000 to 30,000 Filipinos were killed vigilante-style in the name of Duterte’s so-called drug war. 

Marcos, who ran and won in 2022, partly on the promise of being a continuity candidate to Duterte, had made the same claims as his predecessor in arguing against an ICC probe. Marcos, whose 2022 running mate and vice president is Duterte’s daughter, has claimed the ICC investigation to be an “attack” on the country’s sovereignty. 

“We have no longer any recourse when it comes to the ICC. We have not been involved with the actual action. Merely as a comment, we would comment, and the appeal is part of a comment. But we have not appeared as a party in the ICC because we do not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC,” said Marcos. 

The ICC is an international tribunal that probes and, should evidence be sufficient, tries persons “charged with the gravest crimes of concerns to the international community.” It is not dominated by one country but is managed by the Assembly of States Parties – countries that have acceded to the Rome Statute. The Philippines was a party to the statute but Duterte hastily withdrew from the ICC after the international body announced its preliminary probe into his bloody drug war. 

Communication has continued with the ICC, even under Marcos, in the form of fillings – including the latest one that was rejected. 

Where is justice?

Human rights coalition Karapatan criticized Marcos’ decision to “disengage” with the international tribunal.

“Marcos Jr.’s intransigence further exposes his government’s empty platitudes and rhetoric before the international community that the human rights situation in the Philippines is fine, and that its so-called fully functioning justice system is intent on investigating, prosecuting and punishing the perpetrators of the past regime’s bloody war on drugs,” said Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay. 

The Philippine government – under Duterte, then under Marcos – has insisted that the justice system, from the police to the courts, are in place to bring justice to those whose loved ones were killed in the name of the drug war. Yet the quest of justice has been long, with seemingly no end in sight. Since the drug war started, only three cops have been convicted, over the killing of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos and the deaths of Carl Angelo Arnaiz and Reynaldo “Kulot” de Guzman.

“It is becoming increasingly evident that Marcos Jr. has no intentions of exacting justice and accountability from the perpetrators and in fact, maintains the same policies and the same climate of impunity that had led Duterte and his minions to get away with murder,” added Palabay. 

‘Stop defending Duterte’

Former senator Leila de Lima, one of the most vocal critics of Duterte, said “defenders of Duterte” in the Marcos administration “should now realize that the ICC is determined to enforce the Rome Statute so long as the Philippine government does not undertake a serious, in-depth and comprehensive investigation and prosecution of the masterminds of Duterte’s drug war killings.” 

“No amount of simulated investigations or the token prosecution of small fry will fool the ICC into withdrawing its mandate insofar as taking jurisdiction over crimes against humanity committed in the Philippines is concerned,” she said, in a handwritten note released by her office. 

De Lima, former justice chief, led efforts to probe the drug war in the Senate. She also investigated Duterte for alleged extrajudicial killings in Davao City when he was mayor – deaths the ICC is also probing. De Lima was jailed on drug charges she says were trumped, and politically-motivated because of her opposition to the drug war. 

The former senator also said the Philippine government should no longer spend for Duterte’s defense. “The Solicitor General should just refer the international lawyer he hired to Duterte and let the former President foot the bill for his own defense, instead of spending public funds for the personal and private interest of Duterte,” she added. 

“The government should never take the cudgels for every public officer, let alone a former official, accused of committing criminal acts in the guise of defending Philippine sovereignty and jurisdiction over the criminals. Let Duterte and his co-conspirators in the drug war face the music before the ICC. Be on the side of humanity. Be on the right side of history,” said De Lima. –


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  1. JD

    The fact this government refuses to either undertake or allow any credible investigation into the EJKs of the preceeding administration speaks volumes in itself. According to the Supreme Court:

    ‘The flight of an accused, in the absence of a credible explanation, would be a circumstance from which an inference of guilt may be established “for a truly innocent person would normally grasp the first available opportunity to defend himself and to assert his innocence.”‘

  2. ET

    But there is an inconsistency here, despite the brightest minds in our Justice Department, why did it appeal to the ICC to suspend an ongoing probe into former president Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, if in the first place, the ICC has really NO jurisdiction over the Philippines?

  3. ET

    Unfortunately for former Senator De Lima, PBBM does not care which side he is with history. All he cares is that he is in the side of former President Duterte, whose daughter Sara will be the next President of this country. It is a way of maintaining the “Uniteam” and a preparatory action for future favors with the next President of the Philippines: Sara Duterte.

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.