In response to the International Criminal Court’s rejection of his government’s request to halt an investigation into thousands of killings committed during his predecessor’s “war on drugs,” Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. indicated this week that he would break off relations with the ICC.

A formal inquiry into alleged crimes against humanity allegedly committed while President Rodrigo Duterte was in office as part of his “war on drugs” was allowed by the ICC, a court of last resort, in September 2021.

At the Philippines’ request, it put a halt to its investigation in November 2021 after Manila declared it was conducting its own inquiries.

The ICC restarted its investigation in January 2023, and on March 27 it denied Manila’s request to put the inquiry on hold while an appeal challenging the court’s legitimacy was being considered. Marcos declared he would “disengage” from the ICC the next day.

When questioned about Marcos’ comments, the ICC responded that it does not comment on active investigations.

The Philippines, which is no longer a signatory to the international court after Duterte formally withdrew from it in 2019, has claimed that the ICC should not impose on the nation, accusing it of bias.

Even some government officials are unclear as to what was meant by shutting off contact or whether the Philippines will entirely renounce its appeal against the ICC inquiry.

Manila said earlier this month that it has retained a London-based solicitor with expertise in international criminal law to support its appeal. Guevarra asserted that the appeal’s filing did not acknowledge the ICC’s authority.

He explained, “We are doing this because the Rome statute specifically states that this is the procedure to follow if you intend to oppose the court’s jurisdiction or the admissibility of the case.

The Philippines has distanced itself from a summit declaration on democracy that supports holding human rights violators accountable and recognises the value of the ICC.

Up to 2019, according to the ICC, it may look into crimes that took place while the Philippines was a member.

According to human rights attorneys, the ICC might continue its investigation without the assistance of the government by gathering information from other sources like victims, publicly available data, and other organisations like the United Nations.

The prosecutor can gather documentation evidence, such as official government statements and public speeches, and drug war victims or their relatives can testify in person or electronically at the Hague, according to attorney Neri Colmenares.

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