MANILA, PHILIPPINES — The Philippines will no longer deal with the International Criminal Court, President Ferdinand Marcos said Friday after The Hague-based tribunal rejected Manila’s appeal to stop a probe into a deadly drug war.
Thousands of people have been killed in the anti-narcotics campaign started by former president Rodrigo Duterte in 2016 and continued under Marcos.
“We’re done talking with the ICC,” Marcos told reporters during a visit to the southern island of Mindanao, according to an official transcript.
“The alleged crimes are here in the Philippines, the victims are Filipino, so why go to The Hague? It should be here,” he said.
The ICC launched a formal inquiry into Duterte’s crackdown in September 2021, only to suspend it two months later after Manila said it was re-examining several hundred cases of drug operations that led to deaths at the hands of police, hitmen and vigilantes.
ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan later asked to reopen the inquiry in June 2022, and pre-trial judges at the court gave the green light in late January — a decision that Manila appealed shortly afterwards.
A five-judge bench on Tuesday dismissed Manila’s objection that the court had no jurisdiction because the Philippines pulled out of the ICC in 2019, some three years before the inquiry was resumed.
Marcos said Friday the government would take “no more actions” regarding the ICC ruling, but would “continue to defend the sovereignty of the Philippines and continue to question the jurisdiction of the ICC in their investigations”.
More than 6,000 people were killed in police anti-drug operations during Duterte’s term, official government figures show, but ICC prosecutors estimate the death toll at between 12,000 and 30,000.
The drug war has continued under Marcos even though he has pushed for more focus on prevention and rehabilitation.
More than 350 drug-related killings have been recorded since Marcos took office last June, according to figures compiled by Dahas, a University of the Philippines-backed research project that keeps count of such killings.
Opened in 2002, the ICC is the world’s only permanent court for war crimes and crimes against humanity and aims to prosecute the worst abuses when national courts are unable or unwilling.
Manila argues it has a fully functioning judicial system, and as such, its courts and law enforcement should handle the investigation into alleged rights abuses during the drug war — not the ICC.
Only four police officers have been convicted for killing drug suspects in two separate cases since the start of the crackdown in 2016.
Rights groups allege the killings were carried out as part of a state policy, and that Duterte had publicly encouraged them with incendiary rhetoric during his public comments.
During his presidency, Duterte openly encouraged law enforcers to shoot suspects in anti-drug operations if the lawmen felt their own lives were in danger.