Palace: Government will never cooperate with ICC drug war probe

The International Criminal Court building is seen in The Hague, Netherlands, in this January 16, 2019, photograph. (Reuters/Piroschka van de Wouw)

THE Philippine government will never cooperate with any investigation conducted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into President Rodrigo Duterte’s war against illegal drugs, according to Malacañang.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Tuesday, June 15, stressed that the chief executive will not cooperate with ICC until the end of his term next year.

“Hinding-hindi magko-cooperate ang Presidente hanggang tapos ng kaniyang termino sa June 30, 2022 (The president will never cooperate until his term ends on June 30, 2022),” he said in press briefing.

“Hindi po natin alam kung anong magiging polisiya after 2022. ‘Yan po ay bibigyan ng kasagutan kung sino man ang susunod na Presidente ng Pilipinas (We do not know what the policy will be after 2022. That will be answered by whoever is the next President of the Philippines),” he added.

The spokesman also pointed out that the Philippines is no longer a member of the Hague-based body.

“Hinding-hindi tayo magko-cooperate dahil hindi na tayo miyembro at kahit anong pilit na gawin nila hindi tayo magko-cooperate (We will never cooperate because we are no longer a member, and no matter how much they force us, we would never cooperate),” he said.

Roque criticized the decision of ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to move forward with the investigation, calling it “legally erroneous” and “politically motivated.”

“It is legally erroneous because in the first place the ICC has no jurisdiction over the subject matter of crimes against humanity as alleged in her information against President Rodrigo Roa Duterte,” he stressed.

On Monday, June 14, Bensouda sought judicial authorization from The Hague tribunal to open a full-blown investigation into the drug war killings in the Philippines.

In the 57-page document, she said, “The Prosecution requests the Chamber to authorize the commencement of an investigation into the situation in the Philippines, in relation to crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court allegedly committed on the territory of the Philippines between 1 November 2011 and 16 March 2019 in the context of the War on Drugs campaign, as well as any other crimes which are sufficiently linked to these events.”

Bensouda also noted the similarity of crimes “in the city and region of Davao (“Davao”), starting in 1988 and continuing through 2016.”

“Given the similarities between those killings and the nationwide War on Drugs killings from July 2016 to March 2019, and the overlap of individuals involved during both periods, the Prosecution requests that the 2011-2016 events in Davao be included within the requested investigation,” she added.

Furthermore, the ICC Prosecutor pointed out that police officers, as well as private individuals hired by authorities, perpetrated vigilante-style killings.

“These extrajudicial killings, perpetrated across the Philippines, appear to have been committed pursuant to an official State policy of the Philippine government. Police and other government officials planned, ordered, and sometimes directly perpetrated extrajudicial killings,” said Bensouda.

“They paid police officers and vigilantes bounties for extrajudicial killings. State officials at the highest levels of government also spoke publicly and repeatedly in support of extrajudicial killings, and created a culture of impunity for those who committed them,” she added.

According to Bensouda, the application was her farewell move before her term ends on June 15. Her successor, Karim Khan, will take over the investigation should the application be permitted.

“As I stated in December 2019, at the annual session of the Assembly of States Parties, before I end my term as Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, I intend to reach determinations on all situations that have been under preliminary examination during my tenure, as far as I am able to do so in accordance with my obligations under the Rome Statute,” she said in a separate statement posted on the ICC website.

“On the basis of that work, I have determined that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the crime against humanity of murder has been committed on the territory of the Philippines between 1 July 2016 and 16 March 2019 in the context of the Government of Philippines ‘war on drugs’ campaign,” she added.

Insult

For his part, Roque said that pursuing the ICC investigation would be an insult to all Filipinos.

“Insulto po kasi sa lahat ng Pilipino para sa isang dayuhan gaya ni Bensouda at para sa kapwa Pilipino na magsabi na iyong mga legal institution natin sa Pilipinas ay hindi gumagana at hindi nagbibigay-katarungan. Insulto po iyan (It is an insult for all Filipinos for a foreigner like Bensouda and for fellow Filipinos who say legal institutions in the Philippines are not working and do not give justice. That’s an insult),” he said.

“How dare you say that the Philippine legal system is not working? (This is) emotional issue po ito for all lawyers and for all Filipinos. Hindi po, hindi tayo ganyan sa Republika ng Pilipinas (We’re not like that in the Republic of the Philippines),” the spokesman added.

Roque also maintained that the ICC investigation is not in pursuit of substantial justice.

“It is not in pursuit of substantial justice. Bakit? Hindi na po tayo miyembro ng ICC. Ang karapatan at ang kakayahan ng hukuman para mag-imbestiga, upang magsampa ng kaso ay nakasalalay sa kooperasyon ng estado (Why? We are no longer ICC member. The right and capacity of a court to investigate, to file case depends on the cooperation of the state),” he said.

“My first submission is that the ICC Prosecutor has no jurisdiction. She alleged in the first instance that the Philippine war on drugs is an instance of a crime against humanity. What is a crime against humanity? A crime against humanity is defined under the statute of the ICC law as a widespread or systematic attack against civilians knowing that the subjects of attack are civilians,” he added.

The spokesman expressed confidence that “the pre-trial chamber will reject the request for investigation.”

According to Roque, the investigation will only be “a waste of time and resources.”

“They will just waste time and resources of the court because, without cooperation from the Philippine state, they won’t be able to make a case except for one based on hearsay and from the communists and political enemies of the president,” he said.

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at ritchel.mendiola@asianjournalinc.com.

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