Bongbong Marcos Jr walks on a tightrope.

There has been a lot of pressure on his administration to improve the human rights situation in the country as thousands of street-level illegal drugs peddlers, couriers and users had been killed in the last six years under his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte.

Allies of US President Joe Biden in the Senate have been pushing the Philippines to free former senator Leila de Lima and drop charges against journalist Maria Ressa who won a Nobel Peace Prize defending press freedom in the country.

US Democrat senators have been urging the Philippines to end the brutal and bloody war on drugs policy under the former president.

Parliamentarians from the European Union have also been asking the Philippines to comply with the United Nations Human Rights Commission as well as allow the International Criminal Court to investigate Duterte.

Marcos may be in a tight fix. The Philippines will renew its European Union GSP Plus and the United States GSP trade deal that allows local products to enter these two lucrative markets without tariffs.

It will make the country’s exports competitive and boost the local economy. Thus, it is important for Marcos to heed the advice of US Democrat senators and European Union parliamentarians to save the country’s export markets.

But his hands are tied because of his alliance with the former president’s daughter, Sara Duterte, who won as vice president.

Marcos was elected president in the May 2022 elections on the strength of his alliance with the Dutertes.

Remember, before October 2021, it was Sara Duterte who led in all pre-election opinion polls. When she dropped out from the race, Marcos moved up and his numbers improved to nearly 60 percent when Sara decided to run as his vice president.

Bongbong and Sara had identical 31-million vote hauls in the elections, the first time a presidential and vice presidential candidate won overwhelming majorities in multi-party elections since 1986.

Nearly a year after the elections, Bongbong’s political fortunes appeared to have been reversed.

While the Dutertes remained popular, supporters of the former president have started to distance themselves from Marcos.

Some of Duterte’s allies, including Christian preacher Apollo Quiboloy and his SMNI broadcast network, have started attacking Marcos.

They found him a weak leader who backslides on the former leader’s anti-illegal drugs campaign as well as on his anti-Communist crusade and pro-China policies.

They found Marcos sliding back to the Americans after his government granted Washington access to four new local military bases, including an air base close to the Taiwan Straits.

Marcos needs the Dutertes more than allowing the US and the European Union to dictate the government’s human rights policies.

Marcos cannot allow his political capital to be squandered by raising his foreign policy profile by being close to the United States and Western countries.

While he wanted to rehabilitate the Marcos name in the international community by pursuing a much different approach to the drug war and South China Sea issues, he risks alienating Duterte supporters by throwing the former president under the bus.

Thus, his officials are resisting the International Criminal Court’s move to investigate Duterte and get the cooperation of the Marcos government.

Menardo Guevarra, the justice secretary under the Duterte administration who now serves as solicitor general, said the Philippines was not protecting Duterte and was not acting as his lawyer in the ICC.

The Philippines opposed the ICC investigation on the ground that it violates the country’s sovereignty, arguing that the justice system here works.

In fact, a police officer was convicted by a local court for the death of two teenagers, who he said had resisted arrest and fought back.

Officially, the Philippine National Police (PNP) has acknowledged that more than 6,200 people had died in legitimate anti-illegal drugs operations.

All of them had supposedly resisted arrest and the law enforcers only defended themselves during shootouts.

There could be more than 3,000 drug war killings and victims of vigilante violence, but human rights advocates claimed nearly 30,000 had died.

But the Philippines cannot really stop the ICC from opening an inquiry into the drug war because it will run after the people behind the systematic killings, not the police officers who carried out the order.

The ICC is looking into crimes against humanity and not simple murder or homicide committed by police officers.

Last week, the ICC issued an arrest warrant against Russia’s Vladimir Putin for illegally deporting 6,000 Ukrainian children in occupied territories to Russia, kidnapping them and using them as pawns in the war.

Russia is not a party to the ICC and Putin is the sitting leader of a powerful country.

The arrest warrant was more than symbolic because it sends a message to tyrants, despots and dictators across the world that they cannot do what they want to do without any consequences.

If the ICC can order the arrest of Putin, it can also do the same to Duterte who is no longer in power. The crimes that were committed were covered when the Philippines was still a member of the ICC.

Of course, Duterte cannot be arrested. Who will enforce the ICC order?

Marcos will not carry out an ICC order because he risks civil unrest. His own political capital is shaky and he will not confront the former president and his daughter who vowed to protect the former leader.

Bongbong will be tiptoeing on the issue of human rights and the ICC investigation until such time he has consolidated political power and is strong enough to break up from the alliance with the Dutertes.