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ICC probe of Duterte drug war against self-rule, says Palace

THE INTERNATIONAL Criminal Court (ICC) would violate Philippine sovereignty if it sends envoys to probe President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s deadly drug war, according to the presidential palace.

“Only local institutions have jurisdiction to try anyone, including the President, for any crimes that happened here in our country,” presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque told DZBB radio on Wednesday in Filipino.

The ICC on Tuesday said there was reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity had been committed in connection with Mr. Duterte’s anti-drug campaign.

Those crimes including murder, torture, infliction of serious physical injury and mental harm took place between July 1, 2016 and March 16, 2019, Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s office said in its annual report.

The report cited allegations that some people had been subject to “serious ill-treatment and abuses” before being killed by authorities and other unidentified assailants.

Most of the victims of the alleged crimes had been suspected drug pushers from poor neighborhoods, it said.

A final decision on a formal ICC probe could come in the first half of next year, according to the report.

Salvador S. Panelo, the President’s chief legal adviser, rejected the ICC report.

“The Philippine government does not sponsor any unlawful acts that may result in any killing or violent activity,” he said in a statement. “Nor does it allow any widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population.”

The ICC prosecutor started a preliminary probe into the killings of thousands of suspected drug users and peddlers in the Philippines in February 2018. Some of these were killed by police for allegedly resisting arrest or gunned down by law enforcers disguised as vigilantes.

Mr. Roque earlier dismissed the report, saying the ICC does not have jurisdiction over the Philippines after it withdrew from the body last year.

Mr. Duterte, who assumed office in 2016, had promised a relentless war against drugs, making it a major campaign platform.

In 2017, he told police officers to “shoot and kill” drug suspects. “I will kill more if only to get rid of drugs,” he said at that time.

The Commission on Human Rights in 2019 placed the death toll from the drug war at more than 27,000. — Gillian M. Cortez

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