MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Newly elected President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said Monday the Philippines has no plan to rejoin the International Criminal Court, a decision that supports his predecessor’s stance but rejects the wishes of human rights activists.
Former President Rodrigo Duterte withdrew the Philippines from The Hague-based court in 2019 in a move rights activists said was an attempt to evade accountability and prevent an international probe into thousands of killings in his campaign against illegal drugs.
“The Philippines has no intention of rejoining the ICC,” Marcos Jr. said in response to a question at a news conference.
Marcos Jr., who took office on June 30, said he recently met his justice secretary and other legal advisers to discuss the possible resumption of an ICC investigation into the drug killings.
Judges at the ICC in September authorized Prosecutor Karim Khan to investigate killings during Duterte’s crackdown from Nov. 1, 2011, to March 16, 2019.
The probe, however, was suspended in November after the Philippines said in a letter to Khan that it was already investigating the allegations so the international court did not have jurisdiction.
“We are saying there is already an investigation here and the investigation is continuing. Why will there be such?” Marcos Jr. said, questioning the possible resumption of the ICC probe.
The ICC is a court of last resort for cases that countries are unwilling or unable to prosecute. Under the court’s rules, a country can request deferral of an investigation if it is already investigating on its own.
Khan, however, has sought to resume his probe, saying in June that “I have concluded that the deferral requested by the Philippines is not warranted, and that the investigation should resume as quickly as possible.”
More than 6,000 mostly poor drug suspects were killed in Duterte’s police-enforced crackdown based on police statistics. Human rights groups say the death toll is considerably higher and should include many unsolved killings by motorcycle-riding gunmen who may have been deployed by police.
Duterte has defended the crackdown as “lawfully directed against drug lords and pushers who have for many years destroyed the present generation, especially the youth.” He has denied condoning extrajudicial killings of drug suspects, although he has openly threatened suspects with death and has ordered police to shoot suspects who dangerously resist arrest.
Marcos Jr. has faced calls to prosecute Duterte over the drug deaths but has instead praised his predecessor in recent speeches.
His vice president, Sara Duterte, is the former president’s daughter and helped with Marcos Jr.’s election victory in May.