News THE ICC PROBE Duterte's Drug war

Families of victims see no justice under Marcos government, urge ICC to junk appeal to stop drug war probe

Families of the victims of the “drug war” are pushing for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to forge ahead with its investigation of the bloody campaign as they see no hope in getting justice even under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos. 

In a 21-page report dated May 22, 250 individual victims and 165  families “unanimously” urged the ICC’s Appeals Chamber to uphold a Jan. 26 decision allowing Prosecutor Karim Khan to resume the probe on the controversial drug war under former president Rodrigo Duterte.  The decision is under appeal by the Philippines.  

The report was presented by the Victims Participation and Reparations (VPRS), an independent office in the ICC that helps victims with their cases, which received five representations on behalf of the petitioners. The VPRS stated that all the representations “oppose the four grounds of appeal raised” by the Philippine government. 

“In the words of the victims, ‘justice and accountability in the Philippines remain largely elusive and victims and victims’ families face enormous difficulties in seeking accountability using available domestic legal remedies,” the VPRS said, noting that the victims had reiterated the lack of prospect in obtaining justice even under the new administration.  

The VPRS said some victims do not want to file a case in domestic courts or the ICC for fear of retaliation, adding that “local authorities would mostly pressure” them. 

The report quoted one of the representations as stating, “[The mother of the victim] was pinning her hope on the ICC investigation and said she will pray for the safety of ICC investigators when they conduct investigation in the Philippines. She said: ‘[Redacted], and there are still many minors being victimized under the drug war. The policemen are scary, you cannot rely on them to protect the community, the community fears them.”   

As most victims of the controversial drug war are already dead, the VPRS victim’s booklet provides that relatives who suffered from harm, such as emotional trauma or material loss, because of killings are also considered victims. The ICC has allowed all victims to file their comments on the case  in consideration of their personal interests.

The VPRS report brings the Appeals Chamber closer to a decision on the government’s appeal to rescind the Jan. 26 ruling of the Pre-Trial Chamber I. (See ICC resumes full-blown investigation into Duterte administration’s drug war

If the Chamber favors the government, Khan earlier said he would discontinue any investigation into the alleged crimes against humanity that took place during Duterte’s term from July 2016 to March 16, 2019 and the 2011-2016 Davao region killings and related crimes when the former chief executive was mayor of Davao City . 

If the chamber upholds the Jan. 26 decision, however, Khan would be allowed to continue the probe until it reaches the stage of identifying suspects to be charged in a full-blown case. International law expert Romel Bagares said the chamber’s decision is final and can no longer be appealed or amended.  

“That is a final judgement, no longer subject to any further process (like a reconsideration) unless it orders a remand to the Trial Chamber for a re-trial of a case,” he said.