By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Relatives of drug-related killings filed additional evidence against President Rodrigo Duterte over crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In a press conference this morning, Oct. 4, Ma. Kristina Conti of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said the 16-page supplemental pleading was submitted electronically to the ICC in The Hague, the Netherlands yesterday. Oct. 3 at around 3:52 p.m., Philippine time. The complainants charged Duterte of committing, ordering, inciting, goading, encouraging, tolerating or sanctioning acts of murder and other inhumane Acts under Article 7, paragraphs (a) and (k) of the Rome Statute of the ICC.
The first complaint was filed August 28, 2018 by Rise Up for Life and for Rights and six families of victims of extrajudicial killings.
Conti said additional evidence include Duterte’s recent speeches ordering the police to kill drug suspects and admissions by policemen in the documentary film, “On the President’s Orders” as well as news reports.
Neri Colmenares, NUPL chairperson, believes that the case against Duterte is strong. “First, he publicly ordered the killings… Second, he refuses to be investigated. Third, the government does not submit evidence to the ICC.”
Also submitted to the ICC was a copy of United Nations Human Rights Council’s resolution authorizing human rights chief Michelle Bachelet to investigate human rights violations in the Philippines.
Colmenares said they are hoping that the ICC would consider Bachelet’s report, which is expected to be out in June 2020, as part of their evidence against Duterte.
The pleading cited the Relationship Agreement between the UN and the ICC, which was entered into force in 2004. “The UN and the ICC have already agreed that, with a view to facilitating the effective discharge of their respective responsibilities, they shall cooperate closely, whenever appropriate, with each other and consult each other on matters of mutual interest in conformity with the respective provisions of the UN Charter and the Rome Statute,” the pleading read.
Colmenares said this is important especially since the ICC prosecutor could not to the Philippines and the relatives of victims could not afford to go to ICC to testify.
Duterte has threatened to arrest the ICC prosecutor if she comes to Manila and do an investigation.
Colmenares said the ICC is the only recourse for relatives of drug-related killings since Duterte is immune from suit.
The complainants said efforts at a national inquiry have failed. In April 2019, the Philippine Supreme Court definitively ordered the government to furnish citizens and victims who questioned the “war on drugs” copies of police documents on more than 20,000 killings during respondent Duterte?s half-term. The Center for International Law (CenterLaw), counsel for the petitioners, after reviewing the documents, described the submission “rubbish”, irrelevant, and a deliberate effort to stymie the pursuit of accountability.
Conti cited the local court’s decision on the murder of Kian Delos Santos. “The court convicted three low-ranking policemen. It ignores the fact that the killings were ordered by Duterte himself.”
Conti also accused the Philippine National Police of manipulating the numbers of deaths in an attempt to “shield the perpetrators and cover up the actual number of deaths.” She noted that in June this year, the PNP reported 6,600 drug-related killings. By the end of the same month, the PNP said the number is 5,526.
Notwithstanding the Philippine withdrawal from the ICC effective March 17, 2019, Conti said the ICC continues to have jurisdiction over the case since preliminary examination has started before the Philippines’ exit from the ICC.
Cristine Pascual, whose 17-year-old son Joshua Laxamana was killed in August 2018, told Bulatlat in an interview that she will exhaust all legal remedies available to seek justice.
Pascual first filed administrative charges against the Rosales police but the PNP’s Internal Affairs Service dismissed her complaint. She then filed criminal charges against nine policemen before the Office of the Ombudsman. The case remains pending.
Her son’s case is included in the second pleading submitted to the ICC.
“I hope that we can find justice from the ICC,” Pascual said.