July 24, 2023

(Statement of Walden Bello, recipient of Amnesty International Philippines’ Most Distinguished Human Rights Defender Award)

I congratulate the International Criminal Court (ICC) for its decision to proceed with the criminal investigation into the massive violations of human rights committed during the Duterte administration’s so-called war on drugs. This campaign claimed the lives of thousands of innocent Filipinos and further entrenched a culture of impunity and abuse among Philippine law enforcement and government officials. The horrific extra-judicial executions that took place over six years are a stain on the country’s history.

The ICC exercises its functions as a court of last resort if a country’s judicial institutions fail to exercise justice in cases of widespread human rights violations. The Philippine government willingly signed the Rome Statute establishing the ICC, thus making it accountable to the international community for human rights violations and agreeing to have the Court assume jurisdiction over these should its justice system be unable to deal with them.

The Philippine judicial system has proven itself incapable in bringing to justice those responsible for the extra-judicial execution of more than 27,000 Filipinos. Yet it refuses to have the ICC assume responsibility for the process. The reason for this is politics. The Marcos Jr regime’s current attempts to hide behind the technicalities of jurisdiction in order to refuse cooperation with the ICC are a pitiful attempt to appease the partisans of the former president out of fear they might engage in destabilization. This is the same reason it continues to keep former Senator Leila de Lima in jail despite her obvious innocence.

I call upon the president to stop putting politics above justice.

Unlike the Duterte administration, which was marked by lawlessness, the ICC has a sterling record of meticulously respecting the law. Due process will be extended to Duterte, Bato de la Rosa, and the motley crew of murderous criminals that facilitated the horrific atrocities of the war on drugs. These people will be accorded a right that they denied their victims.

Enough of the foot-dragging. Enough of the judicial maneuvers. Let justice take its course. I call upon President Marcos Jr to declare in today’s State of the Nation Address that his administration will fully cooperate with the ICC investigation that is about to begin.