PHILIPPINE police on Monday accused the International Criminal Court (ICC) of violating the country’s sovereignty by reopening its investigation into the government’s deadly war on drugs.

The Hague-based tribunal should “give due respect to the judicial processes that we have in our country because we are a sovereign country,” national police chief General Rodolfo S. Azurin, Jr. told a news briefing streamed live on Facebook. “We have our own judicial proceedings.”

Last week, the ICC pre-trial chamber granted its prosecutor’s request to reopen the probe of killings and human rights abuses during ex-President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s anti-illegal drug campaign. It said it was unsatisfied with government efforts to probe extralegal killings in connection with the drug war.

Mr. Azurin said the PNP has been working with the Department of Justice (DoJ) in probing erring cops accused of killing drug suspects who allegedly resisted arrest during drug raids.

“The PNP is committed to upholding the rule of law in all our actions, and we call on ICC and all international bodies to respect the jurisdiction and sovereignty of our country to address these cases under Philippine laws,” he said. 

The government should prove to the international community that it can handle its own legal issues, said Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco, a lawyer and policy analyst.

“This administration needs to show that we are capable of upholding the rule ourselves without a foreign entity doing it for us,” he said in a Facebook Messenger chat. “Sad to say, leaving the investigation and prosecution to the DoJ may not be enough and the president needs to consider other options within our own constitutional framework.”

Mr. Yusingco proposed an independent commission that will explore human rights abuses.

Experts at the weekend said the government of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. should uphold human rights by cooperating with the ICC probe.

The ICC had seen through the “charade,” Ephraim B. Cortez, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, said, noting that the UN-based court’s dissatisfaction with Philippine efforts to investigate these killings.

He said the ICC decision to continue the investigation showed there is evidence of human rights abuses. “With this action, the government should reconsider its position not to cooperate with the ICC.”

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla on Friday called the ICC’s probe an “irritant,” noting that the country has a functioning justice system.

Philippine Solicitor General Menardo I. Guevarra, Mr. Duterte’s Justice secretary, had said the government would pursue all legal means to block the ICC investigation.

The United Nations Rights Committee has said the Philippines should comply with international human rights mechanisms and cooperate with the ICC’s drug war probe.

The UN Commissioner for Human Rights last year said the government’s probe of human rights violations in connection with the drug war lacked transparency.

Arjan P. Aguirre, who teaches political science at the Ateneo de Manila University, earlier said Mr. Marcos would probably be uncooperative with the ICC to protect his predecessor.

“I’m sensing that the Marcos government will eventually decide not to participate in the investigation given that it has an important alliance to protect within the Marcos bloc that is crucial to its survival as a political regime,” he said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

“Failing to protect former President Duterte would definitely antagonize Vice-President Sara Duterte-Carpio.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Azurin said only 10 top-level cops have yet to heed the call to quit their jobs to cleanse their ranks of officers linked to the illegal drug trade.

He said three police generals and seven colonels had yet to submit their courtesy resignations.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Benjamin C. Abalos, Jr. this month urged all police colonels and generals to resign after a probe found many of them were involved in illegal drugs. A five-man committee is evaluating the record of each top cop who resigns.

The review could take as long as three months, according to the Interior secretary. The committee will then submit its recommendations to the National Police Commission, which Mr. Abalos heads.

Mr. Azurin said last week senior cops who refuse to quit would still undergo review to determine if they are linked to the illegal drug trade. 

The president told police in August to temper their use of force while enforcing the law. Mr. Abalos said the drug war would be “as intensive as before.”

Human rights abuses continued in the first six months of Philippine President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s rule, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Jan. 12.

In a global report, the global watchdog said drug war killings, communist tagging and attacks against journalists continued to damage the country’s democratic institutions.

The Hague-based tribunal, which tries people charged with crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes and aggression, suspended its probe of Mr. Duterte’s deadly war on drugs in 2021 upon the Philippine government’s request.

The ICC was also set to probe vigilante-style killings in Davao City when Mr. Duterte was still its vice mayor and mayor.

At least 6,117 suspected drug dealers had been killed in police operations, according to data released by the Philippine government in June 2021. Human rights groups estimate that as many as 30,000 suspects died.

The Philippine Human Rights Commission has said the Duterte government had encouraged a culture of impunity by hindering independent inquiries and failing to prosecute erring cops. — John Victor D. Ordoñez