MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 17 December) – An international initiative called International Commission of Investigation into Human Rights Violations in the Philippines or INVESTIGATE PH has begun looking into allegations President Rodrigo Duterte had committed crimes against humanity through his war on drugs.
“After the recent pronouncement of the International Criminal Court (ICC), prominent members of the international community declared on Thursday that there is an independent investigation ongoing in the Philippines called Investigate PH,” the commission said in a press release Thursday.
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said Tuesday that there is “reasonable basis” to believe that crimes against humanity were committed by President Rodrigo Duterte, specifically the thousands killed in his war on drugs.
“We are here to announce that an independent people-led probe is happening in the Philippines. This is most definitely a global issue. The world community has a responsibility to speak up and seek the truth,” former Australian senator Lee Rhiannon, a member of the INVESTIGATE PH High Level Commission, was quoted as saying during the virtual press conference where the investigation was announced.
“We must not allow the call for human rights be hijacked. Accountability must be a part of the justice and democratic system,” Rhiannon said.
“That is what brings us together today. What is happening in the Philippines amounts to crimes against humanity. These crimes must be investigated. The human rights cases must be investigated and the perpetrators be made accountable,” the former lawmaker added.
The commission said it will submit its findings to the ICC and UN bodies such as the UN Human Rights Council and UN Security Council.
It said the investigations would be done through virtual and physical fact findings.
“This aims to further substantiate the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights June 2020 report,” it said.
‘False, biased report’
In a statement Thursday, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año slammed Bensouda’s report on the country’s war on drugs as “false, biased, and without factual and legal basis”.
“As the Report itself admits, Ms. Bensouda is still conducting a preliminary investigation, and no criminal investigation or proceeding has been conducted in the ICC proper. Moreover, the Report itself stressed that Ms. Bensouda’s office ‘anticipates reaching a decision on whether to seek authorization to open an investigation into the situation in the Philippines in the first half of 2021,’ therefore, opposition claims that Bensouda has already found ‘crimes against humanity’ in the Philippines are not only misleading but are outright false and ridiculous,” Año said.
The secretary called Bensouda’s investigation a biased and worthless exercise, and advised the ICC official to “instead focus on bringing justice to the victims of the gravest crimes of concern to the international community that continue to be rampant in other countries for many years now”.
“The Philippines’ judicial system is fully functioning. Any alleged abuses in the implementation of the drug war can and should be independently tried, heard, and decided by the Philippine courts,” he added.
Año further said that since the Philippines had withdrawn from the ICC in March 2020, it could no longer “legally proceed” with the investigation for lack of jurisdiction.
“While we are firm in our drive to curb the problem of illegal drugs, we denounce any form of human rights violation. The DILG is working closely with the PNP in ensuring that no atrocities are committed by our police officers in the performance of their sworn duties and that the rights of every Filipinos enshrined in the 1987 Philippine Constitution is [sic] protected,” he said.
“The DILG fully commits to the whole-of-society approach in eradicating the country’s illegal drug problem to achieve the vision of drug-free communities without sacrificing the rule of law and the protection of human rights,” he concluded. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)