ICC judges approved an investigation in September into the campaign in which thousands of suspected drug traffickers were killed. Activists say many have been executed by law enforcement with the tacit endorsement of the president.
Philippine authorities say the killings were in self-defense and that the ICC has no right to interfere.
Court documents released by the ICC and confirmed by Philippine officials on Saturday showed Manila submitted the request for a postponement on November 10, citing the country’s own investigations into killings in the drug war.
“The prosecution has temporarily suspended its investigative activities while assessing the scope and effect of the request for postponement,” wrote ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan, adding that he would seek additional information from the Philippines.
Governments can ask the ICC to defer a case if they are implementing their own investigations and prosecutions for the same acts.
Manila’s request for the postponement follows repeated statements by the Duterte government that it would not cooperate with the ICC.
“We welcome the wisdom of the new ICC prosecutor who has seen fit to take a fresh look at the matter, and we trust that the matter will be resolved in favor of the exoneration of our government and recognition of the vitality of our system of prosecution. justice. “Karlo Nograles, Duterte’s acting spokesman, said in a statement Saturday.
A group of Filipino lawyers asked the ICC not to remove the ray of hope from the families of the victims of the war on drugs.
“We ask the ICC not to be swayed by the claims now being made by the Duterte administration,” the National Union of People’s Lawyers, which represents the families of some victims, said in a statement.
The Philippine justice system is “extremely slow and useless for the majority of poor and unrepresented victims,” the statement said.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the government’s claim that existing internal mechanisms provide justice to citizens was absurd. “Let’s hope the ICC sees through the ruse that it is,” said Brad Adam, director of HRW Asia, in a statement.
The ICC’s decision is a boost for Duterte, who this week launched a candidacy for the Senate in next year’s election. The constitution prohibits him from seeking reelection as president.
“Of course, it will provide some relief in the noisy elections,” political analyst Ramon Casiple, vice president of research and consulting firm Novo Trends PH, told Reuters. “However, it may not allow you to do more after the elections, particularly if the incoming government chooses to cooperate with the ICC process.”
In its nearly two decades of existence, the ICC has convicted five men of war crimes and crimes against humanity, all leaders of African militias from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali and Uganda.