• Dela Rosa reiterated the Philippine government has so far not allowed ICC "interference"
  • The Marcos administration said it was looking to appeal the decision
  • The Philippine CHR previously criticized the "impunity" linked to Oplan Tokhang

Sen. Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa has stressed he was not worried about the International Criminal Court's (ICC) decision on Thursday to resume its probe into human rights' abuses during the country's war on drugs, which began during the Duterte administration.

"It is all up to the Philippine [government] if it will allow such interference into our internal affairs. Our [government], so far, has been consistent in denying them access to proceed investigation since our judicial system is functioning," Dela Rosa said in a message to the Inquirer on Friday.

The Duterte administration's drug war, also called Oplan Tokhang, was from November 2011 to March 2019. In 2017, Filipino lawyer Jude Sabio had lodged a complaint with the ICC, requesting the court to convict the then president Rodrigo Duterte, Dela Rosa, and 10 other senior officials for the alleged "mass murder" in the country during the drug war.

The complaint resulted in a June 2021 report by then ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, wherein Dela Rosa was named as having had a huge hand in the implementation of the drugs war that involved alleged extrajudicial killings.

In the said report, Bensouda said the conduct of Duterte and senior officials involved in Oplan Tokhang "may constitute" crimes against humanity.

Now, contrary to former President Rodrigo Duterte's statement in October 2021 about Dela Rosa being anxious about the investigations, the senator told the Inquirer "I am not" worried about the ICC move.

Duterte had said Dela Rosa "got nervous" about the probe, adding the ex-president reassured the former general not to worry. Duterte also said an investigation into the country's war on drugs should be within Philippine grounds, as per the Philippine Star.

In a separate interview with ANC 24/7's Hot Copy on Friday regarding the Oplan Tokhang, Dela Rosa said, "I am ready."

When asked if he will comply if the government decided to work with the ICC in the probe, the former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief during the war on drugs, said he was "part of the government" so he will cooperate.

"No problem with me, if the Philippine government cooperates," he reiterated.

Meanwhile, the Marcos administration has said it was planning to appeal the ICC's decision.

"It is our intention to exhaust our legal remedies, more particularly elevating the matter to the ICC appeals chamber," Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra said.

Guevarra added that the Philippines has its "own domestic investigative and judicial processes" that "should take precedence" over the international court.

The Philippines officially withdrew from the ICC in March 2019, following an announcement by the latter that it has launched a preliminary investigation into allegations of crimes against humanity during Oplan Tokhang.

While the Philippines has effectively been out of the ICC since 2019, experts have argued that the international court still has jurisdiction over the matter since the crimes allegedly committed occurred when the country was still an official member.

Even though government data showed that the drug war death toll was at 6,248 as of April 2022, the Philippines Commission on Human Rights (CHR) put the figures at around 27,000.

"In its investigation and documentation, the Commission observed the impunity within which these killings occur and operate," the CHR said in a scathing report released April 2022.

Meanwhile, non-profit Human Rights Watch (HRW) welcomed the development. HRW Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson said the international court's investigation was "the only credible avenue for justice for the victims and their families."

Ronald Bato Dela Rosa
Former PNP chief Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa led the Duterte administration's war on drugs (Oplan Tokhang) that took thousands of lives. Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa Official Facebook