Human rights defenders in the Philippines and around the world welcomed the report of International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda that found “reasonable basis to believe” that the government of Rodrigo Duterte may have committed crimes against humanity.

The findings are contained in Ms. Bensouda’s annual report of 14 December which saw reasonable basis that “murder, torture and the infliction of serious physical injury and mental harm… were committed between 1 July 2016 and 16 March 2019, in connection to the War on Drugs campaign launched” by the Duterte government.

Philippine human rights alliance Karapatan and Rise Up for Life and Rights lauded the ICC report. Rise Up said, “state officials and police forces were both brazen and confident that they would enjoy impunity in their crimes.”

Atty. Edre Olalia, President of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, said that the findings of the report will have “a very considerable development that has far reaching repercussions”. NUPL Chairperson Atty. Neri Colmenares, for his part said that Duterte may face arrest in the near future for his role in the extrajudicial killings and in instituting a culture of impunity among his security forces.

Meanwhile, the International Commission of Investigation into Human Rights Violations in the Philippines (INVESTIGATE PH), composed of legal luminaries from scores of countries, announced that it would lead an independent people-led probe of the dire situation in the Philippines, pointing out “that the world community has a responsibility to speak up and seek the truth”.

Duterte and his officials dismissed Bensouda's report. They claimed the ICC has no jurisdiction to pursue this case since the regime withdrew from the ICC and the Rome statute in March 2019.

In her report however, Ms. Bensouda confirmed that the ICC retains jurisdiction over crimes which occurred in the Philippines from 1 November 2011 up to and including 16 March 2019. “Furthermore, the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed up to and including 16 March 2019 is not subject to any time limit,” the report said.