MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman said on Saturday that the president was “exasperated” by the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and his plan to reopen a probe into the outgoing leader’s controversial anti-drug campaign.
Duterte, whose six-year rule ends June 30, initiated a controversial crackdown on drug suspects that international rights groups said involved systematic extrajudicial killings. According to official data, more than 6,200 Filipinos were killed in the campaign, but the ICC estimated that the death toll could be as high as 30,000.
In September 2021, ICC judges authorized prosecutor Karim Khan to investigate allegations of crimes carried out by authorities waging Duterte’s drug war, but Khan’s probe was suspended at Manila’s request two months later.
Khan said on Friday that he has asked judges to authorize a resumption of his investigation, saying in a statement that the deferral requested by the Philippine government “is not warranted” and that the probe should restart “as quickly as possible.”
In a statement issued on Saturday, the outgoing administration described Duterte’s anti-drugs campaign as “hugely successful,” claiming that it resulted in a massive reduction in drug-related crimes.
“For the nth time, we express exasperation at the latest request of the International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan,” presidential spokesperson Martin Andanar said.
Andanar added that the Duterte administration has launched investigations into “all deaths that have arisen from lawful drug enforcement operations,” adding that the ICC should let those investigations run their course.
Khan’s request to reopen his investigation has been welcomed by human rights activists in the Philippines.
“The ICC prosecutor’s request to resume the investigation into alleged crimes against humanity in the Philippine government’s ‘drug war’ is a booster shot for accountability,” Maria Elena Vignoli, senior international justice counsel at Human Rights Watch, said.
The ICC has said that Duterte’s anti-drug campaign appeared to be “a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population” that could qualify as a crime against humanity.
Amnesty International has urged the new government — led by president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who will be sworn into office next week — to cooperate with the investigation and “ensure the safety of families of victims and witnesses.”
Amnesty International Philippines director, Butch Olano, said: “Six years on from the start of the ‘war on drugs,’ families of victims are another step closer to some form of justice.”