President Rodrigo Duterte refuses to cooperate with an investigation of the Southeast Asian nation's drug war killings planned by the International Criminal Court (ICC), his spokesperson said Tuesday.
Rights groups and critics of the drug killings have welcomed the step by the ICC, saying a full-scale investigation will bring justice closer for the thousands of people killed in the bloody campaign.
"We will not cooperate because we are no longer a member," Harry Roque told a news conference. Duterte canceled the Philippines' membership in the ICC's founding treaty in March 2018.
"We do not need foreigners to investigate killings in the drug war because the legal system is working in the Philippines," Roque said, adding he believed launching a formal probe was "legally erroneous and politically motivated."
An ICC prosecutor sought authorization on Monday to open a full investigation into the killings, saying crimes against humanity could have been committed.
"The long arm of the law will soon catch up with Duterte and his accomplices," former opposition senator Antonio Trillanes said in a statement.
Efforts to look into the Philippines' drug war are "deeply regrettable," the Department of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday, noting that the government "has taken concrete and progressive" steps to address issues raised.
"The Philippine Government finds deeply regrettable the announcement of the outgoing Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to seek judicial authorization to proceed with an investigation of the Situation in the Philippines," the DFA said.
It added that a local inter-agency review panel is still reinvestigating deaths linked to the drug war and should be allowed to finish it.
"The Rome Statute requires the Court and the Office of the Prosecutor to respect and defer to the primary criminal jurisdiction of concerned State Party, while proceedings are ongoing in the latter," it said.
The Philippines, according to the DFA, has a long track record of constructive engagement with international and regional partners in human rights promotion and protection.
Since Duterte took office in 2016 until the end of April this year, police have killed more than 6,100 suspected drug dealers in sting operations, government data show.
Rights group say police were summarily executing suspects, but authorities say they were killed after violently resisting arrest.