ICC prosecutor opposes PH appeal to halt drug war probe

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 18) — International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Karim Khan called for the dismissal of the Philippine government's request to suspend the resumption of the probe into the Duterte administration's bloody war on drugs.

Khan argued that Manila has not provided any substantial argument to have the investigation suspended.

"The Prosecution submits that granting suspensive effect is not necessary in the circumstances of this case," Khan said in a four-page petition dated Feb. 16.

"The Philippines has not provided any argument substantiating its request for suspensive effect, nor shown that implementation of the Decision would create an irreversible situation or one that would be very difficult to correct or that could potentially defeat the purpose of the appeal."

The Philippine government - through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) - filed last Feb. 3 a notice of appeal before the ICC's appeals chamber to reverse the pre-trial chamber's decision to reopen the drug war probe.

In September 2021, the ICC's pre-trial chamber approved the opening of the probe covering the crimes allegedly committed from November 2011 to March 2019 - including the extrajudicial killings allegedly carried out in the Davao Region by the "Davao Death Squad."

However, the ICC temporarily suspended the probe in November of the same year, after the Philippine government said local authorities have also launched their own investigation.

Deadline extension

The ICC, meanwhile, granted the Philippines' request to extend the deadline for the submission of its appeal brief on why the drug war probe should not be continued.

From Feb. 19, the country was given until March 13 to comply.

"The Appeals Chamber considers that the Republic of the Philippines has provided valid reasons in support of its Application. In particular, it notes the new administration's logistical and administrative constraints," the Feb. 17 decision read.

In its appeal for the deadline extension, the Philippine government said the OSG was still waiting for the response of other government agencies on its request for a status update on the pending investigations, and that it would need more time to "assess the relevance" of the responses and documents.

It also noted that with the election of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and the appointment of new agency heads, the administration is faced with "challenges in gathering comprehensive data and relevant records due to logistical and administrative constraints."

Marcos already ruled out rejoining the ICC, noting that local investigations were already being conducted.

He also echoed the previous administration's stance that the international tribunal has no jurisdiction over the country.

Deputy Speaker and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, along with 18 other lawmakers, filed a resolution urging the House of Representatives to defend Duterte against the ICC probe.

During Duterte's term, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency said over 6,200 were killed in anti-drug operations.

However, local and international human rights organizations estimate an even higher tally of between 12,000 and 30,000.