ICC public counsel for victims backs call to dismiss PH appeal vs. drug war probe

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 20) — The Office of Public Counsel for Victims of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has joined the call to dismiss the Philippine government's appeal against the tribunal's investigation into the controversial war on drugs.

In a 28-page filing dated April 18, Principal Counsel Paolina Massidda said the possible reversal of the pre-trial chamber's decision to resume the probe into the killings may jeopardize victims' rights to "truth, justice, and reparations."

"The issues on appeal fundamentally affect the general interests of the victims," Massidda said.

“[V]ictims may be denied the opportunity to uncover the truth, present their views and concerns throughout the proceedings, ensure that those responsible are held accountable, and ultimately claim reparation,” she added.

The pronouncement comes following the recent move of ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan, who earlier this month pushed for the resumption of the drug war inquiry while rejecting the arguments raised by Manila in its petition.

Massidda echoed the findings and likewise opposed the grounds of the appeal.

For one, she said the Philippines failed to demonstrate that the pre-trial chamber committed any error in making its decision.

"The appellant must establish an error of law that has materially affected said decision, in that without that error, the chamber would have rendered a substantially different decision. Likewise, for any alleged errors of fact, the appellant must show that the chamber erred in misappreciating the facts, took into account irrelevant facts or failed to consider relevant facts. The appellant fails to meet these applicable standards," Massidda further wrote.

The counsel also agreed the court has jurisdiction over this case as the Philippines was still part of the Rome Statute — the treaty that governs the ICC — when the alleged crimes were committed since the launch of the anti-illegal drugs campaign in 2016. The country's withdrawal only took effect in March 2019.

READ: Relatives of drug war victims tell ICC: No genuine probe in PH

Last month, the Philippines formally appealed the decision to reopen the drug war investigation, arguing how this would violate the country's sovereignty.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had said the Philippines will "disengage from any contact" with the ICC after it rejected the government's deferral request.