‘Devoid of truth,’ Philippine police say of drug war rapes, torture, abuses reported by ICC

Photo: Jonathan Cellona/ABS-CBN News
Photo: Jonathan Cellona/ABS-CBN News

The Philippine police today denied that human rights abuses including torture and rape were routinely committed in the name of the government’s three-year-old war on drugs as described in a report from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

A national police spokesman rejected reports of abuses yesterday from the ICC after the court provided an update on its preliminary examination of alleged crimes against humanity committed under President Rodrigo Duterte.

Spokesman Bernard Banac insisted that no abuses occurred in the operations of the Philippine National Police, or PNP.

“The rehashed narratives of alleged abuses remain to be unfounded and devoid of truth from the beginning but had been repeatedly told and retold over and over to make sound factual,” Brig. Gen. Banac wrote. “The PNP maintains the regularity of all police operations in its major campaigns against crime, illegal drugs, and terrorism where the possibility of armed confrontation with suspects is always present.”

Banac added that the police “will remain guided by existing rules and procedures that ensure transparency and accountability in all police operations.” 

The ICC’s report yesterday referenced allegations it was reviewing as part of its process to determine whether the crimes were within its jurisdiction. The review of Duterte’s bloody anti-drug campaign, which began in February 2018, is on track to be completed next year.

Aside from allegations that thousands of suspects have been summarily executed, the court said victims have been tortured, people were being made to watch their loved ones die, and police officers were raping women as part of the campaign which Duterte has encouraged and “repeatedly and publicly confirmed his commitment” to continuing. 

Read: International Criminal Court to continue preliminary examination of Duterte drug war despite PH exit

The ICC said in its report, “In addition to killings, it has been alleged that some individuals have been subjected to serious ill-treatment and abuses prior to being killed by state actors and other unidentified assailants, such as after being arrested or abducted and while being held in custody prior their deaths.”

“Further, it has been reported that in at least a few incidents, members of law enforcement raped women who were apparently targeted because of their personal relationships to individuals alleged to have been involved in drug activities,” the court added.

The purpose of the preliminary examination is to determine whether a formal investigation is warranted. Once it is completed, the results would “enable the Prosecutor to reach a decision on whether to seek authorization” from the ICC’s judges to investigate the situation in the Philippines.

Read: PH gov’t says they will block or deport ICC investigators if they come to probe drug war

The Philippines left the ICC this past March after Duterte unilaterally decided to withdraw due to what he said were the organization’s “baseless, unprecedented, and outrageous attacks” against him and his government in connection to the drug war he launched in 2016.

The court maintains the authority to prosecute any crimes that happened while Manila was party to its conventions.

Duterte has claimed the court has no jurisdiction because the government’s ratification of the 2002 statute that created the ICC wasn’t published in the government’s official publication.

Vocal Duterte critic, former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, said today that with the court’s preliminary examination set to wrap up, “justice is coming” for victims of extra-judicial killings.

In a statement addressing members of the police force, he said: “[Y]ou would have to make a decision on whether you would fall with Duterte on being liable for crimes against humanity, or you would partly cleanse your crime by being a witness for the ICC prosecutors.”

“Now, let me point out the obvious, as Duterte steps down from office in just a little over 2 years, he would not be able to protect you. In fact, even Duterte won’t be able to protect himself,” Trillanes said.

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