September 15, 2021 – The International Criminal Court has finally authorized the investigation into the alleged extra-judicial killings in the Philippines under the administration of Rodrigo Duterte. The investigation will cover the time of Duterte’s reign as Davao Mayor up to March 16, 2019 when his administration appeared to have tried to escape accountability by withdrawing from the ICC.
Duterte has, on several occasions, announced that he will protect law enforcers should they murder in the name of his infamous war on drugs. He even admitted that his “only sin is extra-judicial killings” – a statement explained by his lackeys as simply being playful even as dead bodies piled up with both witnesses and evidence contradicting the usual police narrative that the victims all fought back. These accounts were later confirmed by a UN investigation that suggests that the police planted evidence to justify these killings.
The murders are all part of Duterte’s campaign promise in 2016 – a promise that was backed by a history of murders in his own hometown. When brought up during the campaign, the Duterte camp dismissed the death squad association as mere propaganda, conveniently leaving out the fact that these stories surfaced long before his bid for the presidency. Check Al-Jazeera’s 2009 report here.
The Palace has released a statement that the Philippines will not cooperate with the ICC investigation and will bar the investigators from setting foot in the country. The Supreme Court, however, has already said that the Philippines is obliged to cooperate in criminal proceedings of the International Criminal Court even if it has withdrawn from the ICC.
I’ll play coy here and say – this leaves us to wonder why the administration would want to stop an investigation that could potentially clear Duterte if he is not guilty. But as we ponder that, the rabid supporters who turn a blind eye or even support these murders would want to make sure that Duterte maintains control in 2022 to escape (possible) persecution. Those who want accountability, however, would want a shift in power to make sure that justice prevails. If 2016-2021 did not happen, I would have said that the choice is clear.