Press Release
June 30, 2020

Statement of Senator Leila M. De Lima in support of the call to
establish an independent international investigation into
human rights violations in the Philippines and to
expedite the proceedings in the International Criminal Court

The doors of domestic accountability for Rodrigo Duterte and his co-conspirators may have been closed, but the windows of international scrutiny have remained open. I wholeheartedly join the 31 UN human rights experts in their collective call for the creation of an independent investigation into human rights violations in the Philippines. This clamor came in the wake of the Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which she submitted on 4 June 2020 pursuant to Resolution 41/2 of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that was adopted a year ago. That report have validated the findings of the same UN Special Rapporteurs, and various NGOs, fact-finding missions, academicians, and media outfits concerning, among others, the rampant and systematic killings and arbitrary detention in Duterte's bloody "war on drugs", the killings and abuses of farmers and indigenous peoples, and the silencing of the opposition, critics and independent media./p>

Given the magnitude and persistence of the human rights violations in the Philippines, the experts have renewed their call on the UNHRC to establish an on-the-ground independent, impartial investigation into human rights abuses in the country. They have likewise urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to "expedite and prioritize the completion of its preliminary examination of the situation in the Philippines."

It maybe recalled that as early as December 2017, in my message for the International Human Rights Day, I have initiated a similar call upon the UNHRC to dispatch "an independent international commission of inquiry or an investigative commission". In my appeals to the preeminent human rights body in their sessions in September 2018 and June 2019, I have reiterated such a call, and added the request "upon the International Criminal Court, through the Prosecutor, to expedite the proceedings before it on the situation in the Philippines."

These twin calls (for an UNHRC-led investigation, and for expedited ICC process) find cogency and urgency at this time when the pandemic is being used as a cover and excuse by Duterte and his cohorts in further brutalizing, terrorizing and abusing the Filipino people. The mass murder of the poor has continued; the arbitrary arrests of sectoral and community leaders have persisted; the judicial harassment of the opposition and even online critics has exacerbated; and the threats upon the media and the church have remain unabated. This maelstrom of rights abuses continues rampaging amidst Duterte's ever rising hate language and vitriol that has undoubtedly incited State agents and others to commit repeated acts of violence and abuses.

The High Commissioner's Report and the joint call of the UN Special Rapporteurs are moral and legal victories that should give impetus to the UNHRC, the ICC and other global instruments of justice (such as the Magnitsky sanctions regime in some governments) to commence their monumental tasks of exacting real accountability, ensuring redress for the victims and their families, and signaling a definitive end to the mass atrocities and other serious violations committed by Duterte, his co-conspirators and accomplices

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