The International Criminal Court to Resume Investigation into Duterte’s War on Drugs

On January 26th, 2023, the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced the resumption of its investigation into the Duterte regime’s crimes against humanity from when Duterte came to office (July 1, 2016) to when Duterte withdrew the Philippines from the ICC on March 16, 2019. The ICC stated that they have “a reasonable basis to believe that the crime against humanity of murder has been committed on the territory of the Philippines.” That being said, the ICC does not have the power to prosecute the crimes committed after the withdrawal of the Philippines (since March 16, 2019), meaning that the investigation will exclude the crimes committed in the second half of Duterte’s presidency and all of Marcos Jr.’s presidency.

Human rights defenders and victims of the war on drugs are calling for Marcos Jr. to cooperate with the investigation, and to pursue accountability for this violent campaign that continues under his regime. He has yet to take any steps to address their grievances. The ICC investigation continues to be the only ‘legal’ avenue through which victims and their families can obtain justice, and the Marcos Jr. government’s lack of cooperation shows their desperate attempt to shield themselves from criticism for continuing the same policies. In the first five months of Bongbong’s presidency, there were 152 drug-related killings, surpassing the 149 killings in the last six months of Duterte’s reign. If the Marcos Jr. government’s appeals to the ICC investigation are denied, Duterte may eventually be held accountable for his crimes against humanity, but there are still no other legal avenues through which victims of the War on Drugs and the related War on Terror can address their grievances with the government if they occurred outside of the period during which the Philippines was a member of the ICC (after March 16, 2019).

Poverty, rampant exploitation, de facto martial law, extrajudicial killings, a failing economy, and social unrest are all factors that led to the overthrow of the Marcos Sr. government during the EDSA revolution of February 22nd-25th, 1986. These factors today, unaddressed and intensified by the Marcos-Duterte administrations, create the political conditions for the War on Drugs. The ICC prosecuting Duterte for his crimes against humanity would be a big step towards justice for the victims of his War on Drugs and their families, but the War on Drugs will only continue to intensify under Marcos Jr. as he deliberately fails to address the root causes of poverty and exploitation in the Philippines: US Imperialism, Feudalism, and Bureaucrat Capitalism. The EDSA revolution was successful in ousting Marcos Sr. and putting an end to the 14 years of martial law in the Philippines, but it was not successful in securing the basic needs of the people and preventing future presidents, now including Marcos Sr.’s own son, from choosing to employ military solutions to socio-economic problems. While victims of Duterte’s War on Drugs and their families seek justice through the ICC’s investigation, new victims are created every day who will likely never see justice done by the Marcos Jr. government.

True justice would be the elimination of the conditions of poverty and exploitation that lead to drug use, and an end to the fascist state violence that the government calls a ‘solution’ to these problems. For this reason, we call for a continuation of the peace negotiations between the GRP and the CPP-NPA-NDFP. The resumption and resolution of the peace talks would be the basis of concrete solutions to the basic problems of the Filipino people which create the conditions for, and empower the Philippine government to carry out the War on Drugs. The Filipino people deserve accountability from their government, and to live without fear. The resumption of the ICC investigation proves that accountability is possible for the War on Drugs, but only genuine democracy, and a just and lasting peace would herald in an area of justice for the Filipino people.

Hold Duterte accountable!

Fight fascist state terrorism!

Continue the peace negotiations!

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