MANILA (AFP) – President Rodrigo Duterte will not cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) probe into the Philippines’ drug war, his lawyer said, after its judges found the crackdown could be a crime against humanity.
ICC judges authorised on Wednesday a full-blown investigation into Duterte’s anti-narcotics campaign, which rights groups estimate has killed tens of thousands of people.
Duterte “will not cooperate since first of all, the Philippines has left the Rome Statute, so the ICC no longer has jurisdiction over the country”, chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo told local radio DZBB.
“The government will not let in any ICC member to collect information and evidence here in the Philippines. They will be barred entry.”
Duterte pulled Manila out of the Hague-based court after it launched a preliminary probe, but the ICC said it had jurisdiction over crimes committed while the Philippines was still a member.
Rights groups, lawyers and relatives of people killed in the drug war welcomed the ICC decision.
“I’m glad because this might be a way for us to get justice for the deaths of our loved ones,” said Corazon Enriquez, who blames Duterte for the killing of her son during a police raid on their home in 2016.
“That’s what we’re hoping for – for that person responsible for the deaths of our children and family members to pay.”
Edre Olalia, the president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, said the organisation hoped this was “the beginning of the end to impunity.” Meanwhile rights group Karapatan said: “Duterte and his cohorts should be made accountable for these crimes”.
Duterte was elected in 2016 on a campaign promise to get rid of the Philippines’ drug problem, openly ordering police to kill drug suspects if officers’ lives were in danger.
At least 6,181 people have died in more than 200,000 anti-drug operations conducted since July 2016, according to the latest official data released by the Philippines.