FACT CHECK: BBM falsely claims ICC has no power over probe on Duterte’s drug war

Aug. 18, 2022

CLAIM: The Marcos administration said the International Criminal Court (ICC) no longer has jurisdiction to continue its probe on the Duterte’s drug war campaign as the Philippine government withdrew from the Rome Statue in 2019.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. made this claim in a press conference last August 1 saying the country has no intention of rejoining the ICC after the Netherlands-based court sought to resume its probe.

Marcos revealed that during his meeting with top legal officials to discuss the country’s strategy in dealing with the ICC, but he mentioned the ICC has no longer jurisdiction.

Para alam natin ang gagawin natin if we will respond, if we will not respond. Kung sakali man sasagot tayo, ano’ng magiging sagot natin? Or possible din, basta hindi natin papansinin dahil hindi naman tayo sumasailalim sa kanila,” Marcos said.

(So we will know if we have to respond or not. If we have to, what should we tell them? It is also possible to just ignore them since we are not under their jurisdiction)


The Philippines withdrew from the Rome Statute, the treaty that governs the ICC, effective March 2019 following the ICC’s preliminary probe into Duterte’s “war on drugs” in which thousands of people accused of selling or using illegal drugs have been killed.

In September 2021, the ICC judges gave the green light for an official investigation but the probe was deferred two months later at the Philippine government’s request, assuring them that local authorities are investigating the reported crimes.

Last June, ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan requested the pre-trial chamber to allow the resumption of the investigation. The chamber has invited, but not required, the Philippine government to submit a comment by September 8.

Marcos’ private lawyer Harry Roque, who was Duterte’s former spokesperson, in a recent television interview also reiterated that Duterte will not allow any foreign prosecutor to have jurisdiction over him.

Former ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the Court “retains jurisdiction” over alleged crimes that have occurred prior to that point.

Their preliminary examination found “a reasonable basis to believe that the crime against humanity of murder has been committed on the territory of the Philippines” between July 1, 2016, when Duterte came to office, and March 16, 2019, before the country’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute took effect.

The Supreme Court has also ruled that the Philippines still has the obligation to cooperate with the ICC despite the withdrawal.

Khan said in June that the Philippine government’s request to defer the ICC investigation was “not warranted” and the investigation should resume “as quickly as possible.”

“The Philippine Government has referred to a relatively small number of past or ongoing criminal investigations and prosecutions that appear to fall within the parameters of the ICC investigation,” Khan said. “However, with a handful of exceptions, the Philippine Government has failed to provide any documentation to substantiate that the investigations are ongoing or complete, nor any details regarding concrete investigative or prosecutorial steps that have been taken.”

Under the Rome Statute’s “core principle of complementarity”, Khan explained, “States always have the first opportunity to investigate allegations of such crimes committed on their territory or by their nationals.” But Khan filed an application to resume the investigation, explaining that “the [ICC] must step in” when national authorities fail to act.

According to a UN report, there has been “near-impunity” for the drug war killings in the Philippines with only one conviction on police officers responsible for the murder of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos in 2017.

Davao Today is part of #FactsFirstPH which brings together various sectors that are committed to promoting truth in the public space, and exacting accountability on those who harm it with lies. For those interested to join the initiative, email info@factsfirst.ph.

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