MANILA— The Philippines will pursue its appeal questioning the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) jurisdiction and authority to investigate killings during former President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’, its top lawyer said on Wednesday.
The remarks come after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said last month he would cut off contact with the ICC after it rejected the government’s request to suspend a probe into thousands of killings during the brutal anti-narcotics campaign.
“The appeal will not be withdrawn. We’ll pursue it,” Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra, who was justice minister under Duterte, told Reuters.
Guevarra said the president’s remarks meant the Philippines will “disengage with the ICC after exhausting our legal remedies within the framework of the Rome Statute”.
The ICC, a court of last resort, approved in September 2021 a formal investigation into possible crimes against humanity allegedly committed under Duterte’s leadership, but it suspended its probe in November 2021 at the request of Manila which said it was carrying out its own investigations.
The ICC probe was reopened in January 2023.
The Philippines has said the ICC should not impose on the country, which is no longer a signatory to the international tribunal after Duterte officially pulled out of the court in 2019, accusing it of prejudice.
But the tribunal’s top prosecutor Karim Khan said the ICC has jurisdiction because the country was a party at the time the alleged crimes were committed. Khan asked the court on April 4 to reject Manila’s appeal and uphold its earlier decision to allow the resumption of the probe.
Khan said the alleged crimes were “extremely serious, and appear to have been at the very least encouraged and condoned by high-level-government officials, up to and including the former President.”
Citing available information, Khan said as many as 30,000 civilians — including children – were killed by the police or unidentified individuals “apparently acting in coordination with police”.
The Philippines will “refute the prosecutor’s arguments in our reply,” Guevarra said.
Police say 6,200 suspects were killed during anti-drug operations that ended in shootouts but reject accusations by human rights groups of systematic executions and cover-ups.
—Reporting by Karen Lema and Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor