No word from ICC on drug war probe —CHR

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 16) — The Commission on Human Rights said it has not received a formal communication from the International Criminal Court regarding its probe into President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial anti-illegal drugs campaign.

CHR chairman Chito Gascon said the agency will not necessarily be involved in the probe. But he added that the commission will take into consideration any request from the ICC regarding the matter.

“There is no direct or immediate relationship of the work with the operations that will be undertaken by the Office of the Prosecutor as it conducts its investigation," Gascon told lawmakers during a hearing on the CHR’s proposed ₱867.2 million budget for 2022.

He said some of the drug-war related killings the CHR has investigated will most likely also be covered in the ICC probe.

As of July 2021, the CHR said it has looked into over three thousand alleged extra-judicial killings linked to the drug war since May 2016.

“We understand in previous investigations in other countries where there are also institutions like us —- the National Human Rights Institutions, kung tinatawag [as they are referred to] -- in the conduct of the investigation of the ICC, there was very little if at all any interaction between the ICC and the NHRI,” Gascon said.

The ICC’s pre-trial chamber recently approved the start of the investigation into alleged crimes against humanity in the administration's anti-illegal drug campaign.

Malacañang, however, insists the ICC has no jurisdiction over the Philippines following the country’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute or the treaty that established the ICC.

Drug war records

Malacañang also said that it does not find it necessary for the Philippine National Police to share its drug war records to the CHR.

“Why would I care about transparency when we are ensuring that guilty individuals are investigated, prosecuted, and punished for their acts?” said presidential spokesperson Harry Roque in a briefing.

Roque said that coordination between the PNP and the Department of Justice is already enough.

“Ang importante kasi ay DOJ. Kasi and DOJ, sa sistemang ligal, ang magsasampa ng kaso. Walang kapangyarihan magsampa ng kaso ang CHR,” he said.

[Translation: What's important is the DOJ. Because in our legal system, the DOJ is the one that will file cases. The CHR has no power to file cases.]

Last August, the PNP submitted to the DOJ its case files regarding a number of police operations that resulted in the deaths of drug suspects.

PNP chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said anti-illegal drug operations will continue. He vowed the police will remain accountable.

"As what we have been saying and in fact, have repeatedly proven to our kababayan (countrymen), the Philippine National Police neither condone nor cover up abuses and other forms of wrongdoings in our ranks," Eleazar said in a statement.

CNN Philippines correspondent AC Nicholls and multi-platform news writer Vince Ferreras contributed to this report