The judges composing the pre-trial chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) have required a unit within, called the Registry, to submit by August this year a final consolidated report on the Philippines’ war on drugs that began when President Rodrigo Duterte ascended to power in mid-2016.
The judges rendered this ruling only two days after the Registry requested for time to complete the submissions relevant to the ICC prosecutor’s request for an investigation into the “situation” of the Philippines.
The request itself was made only one day after prosecutor Fatou Bensouda published a redacted version of her secret request for such an investigation, which she had apparently submitted to the court a month earlier.
This highlights the mechanical efficiency by which the ICC proceeds in preparation for a possible trial against individuals who are still to be identified and subsequently indicted depending on the results of the investigation requested by the prosecutor.
The judges require speed in the processes because the ICC practice manual requires a decision on the request for investigation within four months from the date the request was submitted.
In the case of the Philippines, the non-redacted secret request was submitted by the prosecutor on May 24, 2021. This means that the pre-trial chamber will have to decide on the request one way or the other by the last week of September this year.
One week after that is officially political season in the Philippines. The filing of certificates of candidacy begins on the first day of October. This early, indications are rife that Mayor Sara Duterte is running for President.
The mayor has been coy but recent filings in the ICC have most likely solidified the Dutertes’ dynastic options.
Close political allies like Bongbong Marcos, Alan Peter Cayetano, and Manny Pacquiao, may not be entrusted with the difficult task of resisting international processes in the event that, indeed, the ICC authorizes the investigation requested by the prosecutor. The opposition winning the elections would be a disaster.
Thus, while couched at this early stage as a request for authorization to investigate the situation in the Philippines, the request itself repeatedly refers to events that link individuals and groups like President Duterte himself, Ronald Dela Rosa, Oscar Albayalde, and the Davao Death Squad (DDS), to what the prosecutor calls “an official State policy of the Philippine government” to support “extrajudicial killings” and create a “culture of impunity for those who committed them.”
The prosecutor notes that President Duterte was mayor of Davao City in 1988-1998, 2001-2010, and 2013-2016. During his tenure as Mayor, the DDS allegedly carried out at least 1,000 killings.
The ICC prosecutor says that these Davao killings share a number of common features with the national war on drugs campaign enforced through formal written circulars issued by then police chief Ronald dela Rosa on the first day he took office.
The prosecutor further notes that Duterte’s campaign platform was hoisted on a promise to launch a war on crime and drugs, a national replication of the strategies he implemented when he was mayor of Davao City.
Sources also indicate that law enforcement agents in Davao City killed suspected drug personalities in the course of anti-drug operations, and conducted visits to houses of alleged drug pushers, in operations known as “tuktok,” which seemed to follow a similar model to the “tokhang” operations carried out by the national police since July 2016.
The Philippines became a member of the ICC in 2011. Fatou wants the Davao situation between 2011 and 2016 investigated as a precursor of the war on drugs implemented in 2016 until 2019 when the Philippine withdrawal from the ICC took effect.
Sara Duterte was mayor of Davao City in 2010-2013 because her father could not run for reelection due to term limits. This period falls right smack into the requested investigation of the Davao subset. The need to win the Presidency has never been more urgent./WDJ