MANILA – Relatives of people killed in the Philippine drug war have accused the government of attempting to evade accountability by asking the International Criminal Court (ICC) to postpone its investigation.
The ICC, which in September approved an investigation into President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war in which thousands of people were killed, suspended the investigation on Saturday at Manila’s request.
“I feel angry. I almost threw my phone away while reading the news, ”said Normita Lopez, 57, whose son died in the anti-drug campaign, her voice cracking with emotion.
“They are obviously afraid of being examined,” she said.
The government, which previously refused to cooperate with the ICC, told the court on November 10 that its legal system was more than capable of tackling alleged violations of the law.
“The court can only exercise its jurisdiction if the national legal systems do not do so, which is certainly not the case in the Philippines,” it said in its letter to the ICC.
Governments can ask the ICC to postpone a case if they are conducting their own investigation. A few weeks after ICC judges cleared their investigation, the Philippines said they had reviewed 50 cases suggesting foul play.
Kristina Conti, who represents Lopez and other relatives of the victims, expects the ICC to reopen its investigation.
“We bet the ICC will find that the investigation is not real,” Conti told Reuters.
Justice Minister Menardo Guevarra said he had encouraged victims’ families to lodge complaints directly with the ministry and take advantage of a witness protection program.
The disclosure of details on the 50 deaths from drug wars was a rare admission by the state that abuse may have occurred.
“Why is the government only doing this now? Is it because you were shaken by the ICC? ”Asked Llore Pasco, 67, whose two sons were killed in the raid. “You should have started the investigation as soon as the murders began in 2016.”
According to the security forces, more than 6,000 suspected drug dealers have been killed because of violent resistance since Duterte unleashed his drug war. Rights groups say the authorities unceremoniously executed her.
Among those killed was high school student Kian delos Santos, whose death in 2017 led to the first convictions of police officers in the drug war and was mentioned in a report by a former ICC prosecutor.
“Families see the ICC as a source of hope,” said Delos Santos’ uncle Randy.