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Is justice at hand for drug war casualties?

Manila Standard

There’s no confirmation as of now on speculation going around that the International Criminal Court has concluded its investigation of the bloody war on drugs by the Duterte administration covering 2016 to 2019.

If the rumor mill is to be believed, given this development, the likelihood is the ICC could very well issue warrants of arrest for the main characters involved in this case for “crimes against humanity.”

Two lawyers representing the drug war victims have been quoted in news reports as saying the ICC probe may already have been completed: “I agree with that because the evidence is strong and the investigation has been going on for years,” said former Rep. Neri Colmenares, who represents the victims’ families, along with human rights lawyer Kristina Conti.

Colmenares explained: “If they are truly here, then they should talk to the families at least…even just to offer assurance for them that the wheels of justice are turning for their case…It’s been so long…Remember that many of them (families of victims) have been waiting since 2017… But we believe the culpability is very clear.”

For Conti, an official visit by ICC probers would be a positive thing since the Philippine government had repeatedly said it would not cooperate.

“If they are indeed here, it is a sign of their thoroughness,” she said, noting the ICC is obliged to seek the Philippine government’s official cooperation in investigating the alleged crimes against humanity.

There are no clear-cut rules on how exactly ICC probers could enter the country, Conti said, but at the minimum, the ICC would likely send a request through diplomatic channels.

“But the request has to be kept confidential by the state. It’s not an option for the state to disclose, except to the extent that they have to disclose,” she added.

The lawyer said it’s possible that the government “knows if they are here and they are simply respecting the confidentiality of the request.”

But Colmenares and Conti, both counsels of record, said they have not been informed whether the ICC investigators have indeed entered the country as claimed by the Duterte camp.

Then there’s the view expressed by former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV: “I think the case is now at the finishing touches level for some of the principals, while those who are at the secondary level, cases are still being built up or are about to be completed too,” he told media last week.

Also last week, Duterte’s former spokesperson Harry Roque and Sen. Ronald dela Rosa questioned the purported arrival of ICC investigators although the Department of Justice, Office of the Solicitor General, and the Bureau of Immigration said they were unable to verify the claim.

Since he was chief of the Philippine National Police during Rodrigo Duterte’s term as president, Dela Rosa would likely be among the principal accused in the case.

We await the outcome of this case, just like the rest of the citizenry, in the hope that justice will be served in an expeditious manner.

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