'Patterns' seen in Duterte's Davao and nationwide drug war, says ex-ICC judge

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 20) — The International Criminal Court (ICC) has recently linked the extrajudicial killings in Davao City to the national drug war campaign under President Rodrigo Duterte.

But what happens if those behind the bloody operations refuse to participate in the ICC probe?

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source on Monday, retired ICC judge Raul Pangalangan said that a trial will simply not begin unless the accused are finally under the custody of the court.

"If the person is never in the custody of the court, then the trial simply does not begin," he said. "The court does not even form a trial chamber. For that case, it will wait for the time when the accused is either captured or surrenders to the court."

"And in the experience of the court, by the way, an arrest warrant may remain outstanding for five to 10 years," Pangalangan added.

The President and his allies repeatedly stressed that the Philippine government will not cooperate with the probe that will look into the killings committed during the drug war from July 1, 2016 to March 16, 2019, as well as in Davao City — by what is known as the Davao Death Squad — between Nov. 1, 2011 to June 30, 2016, when Duterte was still mayor.

RELATED: ICC pre-trial chamber authorizes PH drug war probe 

But Pangalangan said the pre-trial chamber had expressly noted the "pattern" in the nationwide vigilante killings and the ones in Davao City played a role in its decision to launch the investigation last week.

"The pattern that you mentioned is actually covered and expressly noted by the court in the pre-trial chamber in its decision," he said. "That is yet another implication one can derive from the broad temporal scope of the authority given by the pre-trial chamber,"

"Yes, my short answer is yes," he added. "It is possible that expanding the scope of the investigation all the way to 2011 might be for the purpose of establishing that pattern."

The Philippines withdrew from the ICC in March 2018, after the tribunal initiated preliminary examination into the bloody anti-drug campaign that resulted in thousands of deaths.

The withdrawal became effective in March 2019, a year after the country deposited notice of its pullout to the United Nations Secretary-General.

RELATED: ICC can summon Duterte, Dela Rosa over deadly drug war — Diokno 

However, the ICC said withdrawal has no impact on ongoing proceedings or matters already under consideration by the court prior to the date the pullout became effective.

Pangalangan also stressed that videos, statements, and other online mechanisms may be used as a record in the investigation in order to establish sufficient basis to file charges against the accused.

READ: Ex-ICC judge cites alternative ways to gather evidence on Duterte's drug war