On 21 March 2023, the International Criminal Court (ICC) allowed families of victims to comment on the appeal of the Philippine government against the ongoing investigation on former President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.
In a decision, the ICC's appeals chamber instructed the Victims Participation and Reparations Section (VPRS) to “collect and transmit… representations from any interested victims and victim groups”which would be included in a report to be submitted by May 22, 2023. The Office of Public Counsel for Victims may also submit written observations ïn relation to the general interests of victims” by April 18, 2023. The Appeals Chamber “considers it appropriate for victims to be involved in these appeals proceedings,” it stated.
Last January 27, 2023, the Pre-Trial Chamber I of the ICC authorized ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan to resume the investigation of drug related killings in the Philippines. According to the findings of the ICC, former president Rodrigo Duterte’s violent war on drugs, 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.
Human Rights groups welcomed the resumption of the investigation. “That is welcome news. We hope that the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber pursues investigation until former President Rodrigo Duterte is convicted and punished for the deaths of thousands in his regime’s bloody anti-drug war,” Karapatan’s Secretary General Cristina Palabay said in a statement.
Human Rights Watch Deputy Director for Asia Phil Robertson also said in a statement that the ICC investigation “is the only credible avenue for justice for the victims and their families of former President Rodrigo Duterte’s murderous ‘war on drugs.’”
As a reaction to the ICC decision to resume investigation, President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. said, “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.”
Human Rights Watch Asia Director, Elaine Pearson immediate reacted saying the Philippine government “cannot say it upholds democratic values but at the same time reject, ridicule and threaten [an] accountability mechanism like the ICC.”
A statement, issued by the Philippine UPR Watch contingent at the UNHRC session, said: “It is becoming increasingly evident that Marcos Jr. has no intention to exact justice and accountability from the perpetrators. In fact, he maintains the same policies and the same climate of impunity that has led Duterte and his minions to get away with murder.”