ICC probe in focus: ANC, Inquirer.net and Rappler explain pre-trial chamber’s findings

CHEERS TO ANC, Inquirer.net and Rappler for reporting with appropriate context the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision to investigate the “war on drugs” of the Duterte administration and the Davao Death Squads (DDS) while Duterte was mayor of the city. The three accounts go in-depth, explaining the basis of the decision as well as describing what this means for the government. 

The ICC decision was announced on September 15. Most of the media reported only on what the ICC said in its press brief, as well as the quick counter of the Palace and its refusal to cooperate, with a few accounts adding what human rights groups and families of victims said to welcome the probe. 

But the three media organizations cited above provided expert views and analysis to help the public understand the issues.

Rappler’s Jodesz Gavilan condensed the 41-page decision into ten key points. Among the points Gavilan highlighted are:

  • The drug killings as “state policy;” with the report calling attention to “cash payments, promotions, or awards” that perpetrators received
  • The “lack of due process” in the drug-related killings
  • Duterte’s “violent rhetoric” that emboldened officers to kill
  • The drug war’s targeting the poor
  • The lack of substantial investigations

ANC Rundown’s Mike Navallo zeroed in on the question of whether the government can stop the ICC’s investigation. He interviewed lawyer Ruben Carranza, International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) Senior Expert, who provided the broader landscape in which the investigation works.

In the 22-minute interview, Carranza said that the administration cannot stop the probe. It can only ask for a deferment, which it did not do. The government may also appeal the decision of the pre-trial chamber, but the prosecutor can still investigate while the appeal is pending. He also said that because perpetrators have been identified as policemen or vigilantes linked to the police, evidence supports the “systematic” nature of the crimes. He added that ICC’s decision to include earlier Davao killings, and other non-murder crimes indicates “widening the scope” to prove the killings as “systematic and widespread.”

Inquirer.net underscored how Duterte’s tirades against the drug menace provided evidence for the ICC. The online news site traced the timeline of his statements dating back to his presidential campaign in 2016. Reporter Kurt Dela Peña cited Fatou Bensouda, former ICC prosecutor, who said that the president’s words have “encourag[ed], support[ed] and, in certain instances, urg[ed] the public to kill.” The report came with a visual timeline of 16 of the president’s most damning statements that include his “shoot-to-kill” orders and defense of law enforcers involved in killings. 

Media should focus public attention on the issue. The ICC is an international institution, an agency that does its job according to set rules of investigation and truth-seeking. Journalists need to uphold the credibility of its process. The ICC provides a system of public accountability, which is often lost when governments become so powerful as to control even its justice system. Without the media doing its job, the public will hear only what government and its propaganda arms have to say.