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VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Remulla’s statement asking ICC to show ‘pattern’ of drug war killings needs context

WHAT WAS CLAIMED

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla dares the International Criminal Court to “show us the pattern so that we can pick up from what their theory is.”

OUR VERDICT

Needs context:

Remulla failed to mention that as early as September 2021, the Pre-Trial Chamber I, a judicial branch of the ICC, had listed five “considerations” in identifying the existence of systematic and widespread killings in the Duterte administration’s anti-drug campaign.

Last January, the chamber reiterated these five considerations in denying the claim of the Philippine government that there were no widespread and systematic killings in the drug war, and that the situation does not have sufficient gravity to justify further action by the ICC.

Feb 7, 2023

VERA Files

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Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla dared the International Criminal Court (ICC) to show the Philippine government the “pattern” of alleged state-sponsored killings under the Duterte administration’s war on drugs. This lacks context.

STATEMENT

During a Jan. 27 press conference, Remulla was asked how the Marcos administration intends to appeal ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan’s findings that the local investigation “does not address possible patterns or policy behind the killings” related to the previous administration’s campaign against illegal drugs.

He said:

“If they want us to investigate the pattern, then they should show us the pattern so that we can pick up from what their theory is.”

 

Source: ANC official YouTube channel, LOOK: DOJ holds press conference as ICC allows resumption of PH drug war probe | ANC, Jan. 27, 2023, watch from 13:56 to 14:05

The Justice secretary added:

“But they should, they cannot subsume upon, they cannot assume jurisdiction in our country without allowing them to do that. And we are not allowing them to take jurisdiction in the country. And first and foremost, we are no longer members of the ICC. That is a complication that is part of the problem right now.”

 

Source: watch from 14:05  to 14:26

FACT

Remulla failed to mention that as early as September 2021, the Pre-Trial Chamber I, a judicial branch of the ICC, had listed five “considerations” in identifying the existence of systematic and widespread killings in the Duterte administration’s anti-drug campaign. These are:

  • Pronouncements encouraging the killings under the drug war by former president Rodrigo Duterte and other officials
  • Clear link between the killings and the government’s formal anti-drug campaign
  • Existence of drug watchlists
  • The provision of rewards or promotions for physical perpetrators
  • The failure of national authorities to take meaningful steps to probe or prosecute the killings

In its Jan. 26 decision granting Khan’s request to resume the probe, the chamber reiterated these five considerations in denying the claim of the Philippine government that there were no widespread and systematic killings in the drug war, and that the situation does not have sufficient gravity to justify further action by the ICC.

The pronouncements encouraging the killings of suspected drug offenders pursuant to the drug war by Duterte, Dela Rosa and other officials are considered as indications of state-sponsored killings, the chamber said in a September 2021 decision authorizing the opening of a drug war probe.

Another consideration was the “clear link” between the killings and the Duterte administration’s anti-drug campaign. It said there was a “marked increase in [the reported] killings” of suspected drug personalities following the assumption of Duterte as president and the issuance of Command Memorandum Circular No. 16 in 2016, referring to the so-called “Project: Double Barrel” of the Philippine National Police.

“Further, the reduction in the number of killings following the two instances of suspension of the so-called ‘war on drugs’ campaign in January-March 2017 and again in October-December 2017 lend support to the proposition that the killings occurred in execution of, or because of, the official policy,” the chamber said in a 41-page decision.

Other factors include the existence of watchlists of alleged drug personalities, the provision of rewards or promotions for physical perpetrators and the failure of national authorities to take meaningful steps to probe or prosecute the killings.

Although the chamber recognized the efforts of the government, it is still “not satisfied” because the “totality” of local investigations and proceedings “do not sufficiently mirror” Khan’s probe. It also noted that most of the cases focused on low-ranking law enforcement personnel.

“The domestic proceedings in the Philippines thus do not sufficiently mirror the expected scope of the Court’s investigation, since they only address the physical, low-ranking perpetrators and at present do not extend to any high-ranking officials,” it said.

BACKSTORY

Khan is investigating alleged crimes against humanity, such as murder and torture, that occurred in the Duterte administration’s drug war from July 1, 2016 to March 16, 2019. He estimated 12,000 to 30,000 deaths of suspected drug personalities in the drug war. The Pre-Trial Chamber I also allowed the prosecutor to expand the probe on the killings and other related crimes in the Davao region from November 2011 to June 2016.

The ICC investigation was temporarily suspended in November 2021 upon the request of the Philippine government to Khan to defer to the local authorities. (Read ICC resumes full-blown investigation into Duterte administration’s drug war)

 

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Sources

ANC official YouTube channel, LOOK: DOJ holds press conference as ICC allows resumption of PH drug war probe | ANC, Jan. 27, 2023

International Criminal Court official website, Public Redacted Version of “Authorisation pursuant to article 18(2) of the Statute to resume the investigation”, Jan. 26, 2023

International Criminal Court official website, Decision on the Prosecutor’s request for authorisation of an investigation pursuant to Article 15(3) of the Statute, Sept. 15, 2021

Philippine National Police official website, CMC 2016-16 PNP ANTI-ILLEGAL DRUGS CAMPAIGN PLAN PROJECT DOUBLE BARREL, July 1, 2016

International Criminal Court official website, Annex A (Deferral request of the Philippine government), Nov. 18, 2021

 

(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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