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ICC prosecutor asks for denial of PH request to suspend probe on drug war crimes; OSG seeks extension to file appeal

The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has requested for the dismissal of the Philippine government’s appeal to suspend its investigation into alleged extrajudicial killings related to former president Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war.

ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan made the request on Feb. 16, just one day after the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) asked for an extension of the deadline to file its appeal brief before the ICC’s Appeals Chamber. The brief is a document in support of the appeal that the government submitted almost two weeks ago. It would provide the history of the case, an explanation on the alleged errors in the decision to resume the investigation and why it should be reversed.

“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 potentially defeat the purpose of the appeal,” Khan wrote in a four-page petition.

Under Regulation 64, paragraph 2 of the ICC’s Regulations of the Court, the government has 21 days or until Feb. 19  to file the appeal brief for its request to reverse the decision of the Pre-Trial Chamber I (PTC I) to continue with its probe of the alleged crimes committed in the Duterte administration’s drug war from July 1, 2016 to March 16, 2019, and the 2011-2016 Davao Death Squad killings.

PTC 1 is a judicial branch of the ICC that handles requests by the court’s prosecutor to launch or resume an investigation.  The office, which released its decision to resume the probe on the alleged drug war-related crimes on Jan. 26, also issues warrants or summons for specific cases.

The Appeals Chamber, on the other hand, hears appeals to reverse a final judgment on a conviction or admissibility of cases before the IC, among others.

On Feb. 3, Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra filed the notice to appeal to reverse the PTC I’s ruling in time to meet the five-day submission deadline, but has not yet filed the appeal brief. (Read Philippine government seeks to block resumption of drug war probe)

In its six-page extension request, the OSG asked for at least 20 days to comply with the requirement as it is still waiting for updates from “other relevant government agencies” on the pending investigations on the bloody war on drugs.

“It has received responses and documents on separate occasions, but needs additional time to assess the relevance of these documents,” Guevarra explained, adding that the government is “facing challenges” in gathering comprehensive data and relevant records on the investigation because of the change in administration in June 2022 when Duterte ended his term.

If the Appeals Chamber grants the government’s request, the OSG could have until March 13 to file the appeal brief.

The OSG’s request for extension was submitted on the same day that former president-now deputy house speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and 18 other representatives filed a resolution urging the House of Representatives to come to Duterte’s “unequivocal defense” in the wake of the PTC I decision.

Read the full text of the ICC prosecutor’s request here. Read the full text of the Philippine government’s extension request here.