Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr has said his country has no plan to rejoin the International Criminal Court
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr has said his country has no plan to rejoin the International Criminal Court

The Philippines has no plan to rejoin the International Criminal Court, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said Monday, with the tribunal's prosecutor seeking to resume a probe into the ex-president's deadly drug war.

Rodrigo Duterte, who left office on June 30, pulled the Philippines out of the ICC in 2019 after it launched a preliminary probe into his drug crackdown, which killed many thousands of people.

ICC judges authorised a full investigation into the anti-narcotics campaign last September, saying it resembled an illegitimate and systematic attack on civilians.

It suspended the probe two months later, after Manila said it was looking into the alleged crimes itself.

But ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said in June that the request by Manila to defer the probe was unjustified and that it should restart "as quickly as possible".

Marcos, who backed Duterte's drug war, has previously indicated he would not cooperate with the ICC.

On Monday, he went even further.

"The Philippines has no intention of rejoining the ICC," Marcos told reporters.

Son of the country's late dictator, Marcos Jr was elected president by a landslide in May with the help of a powerful alliance with Duterte's daughter, Sara, who won the vice presidential race.

During his presidency, Duterte refused to cooperate with the court, claiming it had no jurisdiction -- an assertion rejected by the Philippine Supreme Court.

Under pressure from the UN Human Rights Council and the ICC, the government has examined several hundred cases of drug operations that led to deaths.

Charges have been filed in a handful of cases. Only three police have been convicted for slaying a drug suspect.

The ICC has invited the Philippines "to offer observations" on Khan's request to resume the probe, the presidential communications office said.

Manila has until September 8 to respond.

Marcos said Monday that a recent meeting with his legal team, which includes Duterte's former spokesman Harry Roque, was to discuss whether the administration would respond.

"What we're saying is we have an investigation here and it's ongoing, so why do we have to have that?" Marcos said on the sidelines of an event to promote booster shots of Covid-19 vaccines.

"It's also possible that we will not bother (to respond) at all because we are not under them."

Human rights group iDefend said they were undeterred by Marcos' decision, and vowed to "continue to fight for justice and accountability".

Even if the ICC gathers enough evidence to bring a case against Duterte, its rules prevent him from being tried in absentia.

The 77-year-old is still hugely popular among many in the Philippines who supported his quick-fix solutions to crime, and he remains a potent political force.

A self-professed killer, Duterte told officers to fatally shoot narcotics suspects if their lives were at risk.

He defended the crackdown, saying it had saved families and prevented the Philippines from turning into a "narco-politics state".

Government data show at least 6,252 people died in police anti-drug operations during Duterte's six-year term.

Rights groups say Duterte created a climate of impunity and estimate that tens of thousands have been killed by police, hitmen and vigilantes, even without proof they were involved in drugs.