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Philippines

Philippine ecumenical group issues Duterte challenge

Faith leaders urge the president to cooperate with any ICC probe into drug killings to prove his innocence

Joseph Peter Calleja, Manila

Joseph Peter Calleja, Manila

Published: July 01, 2021 08:26 AM GMT

Updated: July 01, 2021 08:33 AM GMT

Philippine ecumenical group issues Duterte challenge

Relatives of victims of extrajudicial killings arrange portraits of their relatives during a memorial Mass at the Philippine Human Rights Commission office in Manila on July 9, 2019. (Photo: AFP)

An ecumenical group in the Philippines has challenged President Rodrigo Duterte to cooperate if the International Criminal Court (ICC) launches a full probe into the thousands of killings in his war on illegal drugs.

One Voice, comprising Catholic clergy and faith leaders from other Christian denominations, released a statement on June 30 urging Duterte not to threaten victims’ families to stop them submitting complaints to the ICC.

ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda formally requested on June 14 that the court in The Hague launch a formal investigation into Duterte’s alleged involvement in the killings.

On June 28, the ICC called on victims’ families to submit complaints.

One Voice said Duterte cannot escape liability for his crimes as the truth will always come out.

“You may hold power today but justice is not dead. In the end, truth and justice will prevail,” the statement said.

The government’s war on drugs is evil because it is orchestrated by the powerful to kill those who are poor and weak

One Voice also demanded that Duterte and those who committed the killings be held accountable.

“Evil cannot be resolved by another evil. The government’s war on drugs is evil because it is orchestrated by the powerful to kill those who are poor and weak,” the group said.

While low-level drug suspects are being killed, no kingpins have ever been brought to justice, it added.

Government figures point to at least 8,500 people having been killed, but some rights groups put the toll at three times that number.

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Divine Word priest Father Flavie Villanueva recently challenged Duterte to participate in the proceedings if he has nothing to hide.

“If you have nothing to hide, why not face the music?” Father Villanueva asked on social media.

Families of victims, however, doubted whether Duterte would participate freely in an investigation.

“This already happened before when there was an anomaly with one of his bank accounts. Duterte did not participate in the investigation by lawmakers, saying it was his opponents' problem to look for evidence against him,” said one mother who lost a son in the drug war.

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