By John Victor D. Ordoñez, Reporter

THE PHILIPPINES won’t rejoin the International Criminal Court (ICC), President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. said on Monday, in a move that political analysts said is meant to protect his predecessor from prosecution for the government’s deadly drug war.

“The Philippines has no intention of rejoining the ICC,” Mr. Marcos told a virtual news briefing. “There is already an ongoing investigation here in the country,” he added in Filipino.

The president said he had ordered government lawyers to carefully study the possible legal proceedings involving the ICC, which might resume its probe of alleged crimes against humanity by ex-President Rodrigo R. Duterte in connection with the drug war that killed thousands.

Mr. Duterte had told police officers to shoot drug suspects if their lives were at risk. When he was president, he often defended the campaign by saying it had saved Filipino families from the drug menace and prevented the country from turning into a “narco-politics state.”

“This ICC is a very different kind of court, which is why we are carefully studying first the procedure so that our actions won’t be misinterpreted,” Mr. Marcos said.

Mr. Marcos is probably trying to shield Mr. Duterte given his alliance with his family, Arjan P. Aguirre, a political science professor at the Ateneo de Manila University, said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

“This is just an alibi,” he said. “The main reason for not rejoining the ICC is still connected to his alliance with the Dutertes. Marcos values more the stability of his rule and he will not do anything to destroy his relationship with Vice-President Sara Duterte-Carpio.“

Mr. Marcos ran with the presidential daughter in the May 9 election, which both won by a landslide.

Senator Ana Theresia N. Hontiveros-Baraquel said Mr. Marcos should not block any investigations of the drug war that started even before the Philippines withdrew from the ICC.

“It is still their mandate to investigate, which is why they shouldn’t be blocked from their work,” she said in a statement in Filipino. “If there is nothing to hide, no one should be afraid of this investigation.“

The Hague-based international court on July 14 gave the Philippines until Sept. 8 to comment on the ICC Office of the Prosecutor’s request to resume the investigation into alleged crimes against humanity by Mr. Duterte and his officials. It also allowed victims to make written submissions through their lawyers.

Mr. Duterte canceled Philippine membership in the tribunal in 2018.

Mr. Marcos last week met with his legal officials including his Justice secretary and solicitor general to discuss the government’s next move on the ICC probe.

Last month, ICC Prosecutor Karim Ahmed Khan asked the ICC’s pre-trial chamber to reopen the probe months after it was halted upon the Philippine government’s request.

The Department of Justice had only brought five of the 52 cases involving about 150 police officers to court since it started its own investigation in 2021.

In a 53-page request to the ICC pre-trial chamber, Mr. Khan said the Philippines had failed to show it investigated crimes related to the campaign.

He said the chamber should issue an order on an “expedited basis.” It should “receive any further observations it considers appropriate from victims and the government of the Philippines,” he added.

Former national police chief Ronald M. dela Rosa, the main enforcer of the drug war and now a senator, said the probe is an insult to the Philippine Justice system. He said he would not cooperate with the investigation.

Data from the Philippine government released in June 2021 showed that at least 6,117 suspected drug dealers had been killed in police operations as of April 2021. Human rights groups estimate that as many as 30,000 suspects died.

Several human rights groups have urged Mr. Marcos to rejoin the ICC and to work closely with the tribunal in its probe of Mr. Duterte’s anti-illegal drug campaign.