In a media forum on Saturday, January 28, 2023, Department of Justice (DOJ) Assistant Secretary Mico Clavano said the ICC should let the Philippines resolve the drug war issue, noting it has a well-functioning justice system to prosecute those who are accountable.
He said the decision of the ICC Pre-trial Chamber I that granted the request of Special Prosecutor Karim Khan to resume the conduct of a probe on the alleged crimes against humanity in the Philippines in relation to Duterte’s crackdown on illegal drugs is not welcome to the DOJ.
Under international law, Clavano said the complementarity principle is observed, which means that the ICC or any international court can only come in if a particular country does not have the capability to investigate or is unwilling to do an investigation.
“What we’re trying to say is we are doing a genuine investigation on the killings from 2016 up to 2019 or even up to the end, 2022. If there’s a working justice system then the ICC cannot come in, and supplant or substitute our working justice system with their own; dahil gumagana naman,” he said.
“So in international law, when that happens, they can only complement iyong ating investigation, and they cannot substitute,” he added.
Clavano said that if the Philippines would accept the ICC’s probe, it would also be an admission that it does not have a well-functioning justice system and has experienced a breakdown in civil order just like the other countries it investigated such as African countries like Uganda, Congo and Sudan.
“But here (Philippines), we’re saying that we have an organized — although we have limitations, we have some challenges that we have to overcome — we have a working justice system. Kaya po iyon iyong naging stand ng gobyerno ngayon,” he said.
On January 26, the ICC said it was not satisfied that the Philippines is undertaking relevant investigations, especially on the deaths related to the drug war that would warrant a deferral of its investigations on the basis of the complementarity principle.
This came despite the earlier request of the Philippines government not to continue with the probe, noting that national authorities were investigating or had already investigated the cases and that the ICC has no jurisdiction over it since the Duterte administration has already withdrawn membership in the Rome Statute, which established the ICC.
Clavano said the DOJ will conduct a full-blown investigation on the past administration’s war on drugs, adding it will collect the right evidence, obtain the witnesses and properly screen all the facts of the cases.
Reiterating that such a process takes time, Clavano urged Khan to give the Philippine government time for the conduct of its own inquiry.
From July 2016 to May 31, a total of 6,252 individuals were killed in the drug war. (SunStar Philippines)