Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will not cooperate with the International Criminal Court's investigation into the so-called “drug war” in the Philippines, his lawyer said, insisting the court does not have jurisdiction in the country.
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,” Salvador Panelo, the Philippines’ chief presidential legal counsel, said on Thursday.
“The government will not let in any ICC member to collect information and evidence here in the Philippines. They will be barred entry.”
After taking office in late June 2016, Duterte launched an anti-drug campaign, ordering police to gun down drug suspects if officers’ lives were at stake.
Rights groups have criticized the bloody campaign, saying security forces or volunteers have carried out extrajudicial killings during the operations. They allege that the so-called drug war has so far claimed the lives of thousands of people.
Panelo’s comments came just a day after the tribunal’s judges authorized a thorough investigation into Duterte's anti-narcotics campaign, which has been likened to an illegitimate and systematic attack on civilians by rights groups.
Following a preliminary investigation by the ICC, Duterte pulled the Philippines out of the tribunal. However, the Hague-based court insists that it has still jurisdiction over crimes committed while the Philippines was still a member state.
The ICC’s Wednesday decision was welcomed by rights groups, lawyers and relatives of people killed during Duterte's anti-narcotics campaign.
According to the latest official figures by Manila, at least 6,181 people have lost their lives in over 200,000 anti-drug operations carried out since July 2016.
However, ICC prosecutors in court papers estimate that between 12,000 to 30,000 people have been killed so far during the years-long drug war.
The ICC will also investigate purported extra-judicial killings in the southern Davao region between 2011 and 2016, when the incumbent president was mayor.