Government vs ICC: Confrontation possible

MANILA, Philippines — The government may resort to “outright confrontation” in dealing with prosecutors from the International Criminal Court (ICC) who might insist on entering the country to investigate thousands of extrajudicial killings allegedly committed by security forces in the conduct of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs, a ranking justice official said yesterday.

“We may prevent them from entering, outright confrontation,” Department of Justice (DOJ) Senior Undersecretary Raul Vasquez said at the Saturday News Forum in Quezon City.

But he stressed ICC investigators may also be allowed to enter the country, “subject to limitations,” depending on arrangements with the government.

The President as chief policymaker, he added, will have the final say on the matter.

“Right now, his decision is not to engage with the ICC. That means, we won’t coordinate, we won’t allow them to come here as ICC,” Vasquez said.

President Marcos earlier said his administration is “done” with the ICC after the tribunal junked a government appeal and decided to proceed with its investigation into the drug war killings.

Marcos reiterated that the government will not cooperate “in any way or form” with the ICC, citing the Philippines’ arguments that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the country and has no right to resume its investigation.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla earlier said the government is still open to dialogue with the ICC, depending on the agenda.

With the junking of the government’s appeal, ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan and his team may continue to gather evidence and request for the issuance of arrest warrants or summonses if he determines there are substantial grounds to do so.

Vasquez explained that the ICC has no enforcement mechanism and would need help from its member-states in enforcing decisions or investigating crimes.

“They have no authority to do investigations here because that is a mandate of our law enforcement agencies. They are not members of our law enforcement,” he said, referring to ICC prosecutors.

Insult to victims

By deciding against cooperating with the ICC, the Marcos administration is insulting victims of extrajudicial killings and is showing weakness and duplicity, a lawyer assisting the families of victims of drug war killings said.

“We think that a complete disengagement with the ICC signifies, on one hand, that the Marcos government is afraid of the ICC uncovering systematic, programmatic killings and, on the other, that it is merely posturing for political convenience in the international arena,” Kristina Conti said.

She said the Marcos administration must commit to investigate the Oplan Tokhang and the role of former president Duterte in the killings.

“Otherwise, victims of the ‘war on drugs’ can only say that the Philippine government’s intention in non-cooperation is to shield perpetrators of crimes against humanity and other atrocities,” Conti, who is secretary general National Union of People’s Lawyers-NCR chapter, said.

“The Philippines will lose the opportunity to formally ventilate its arguments on jurisdiction. The victims will lose the chance to learn the truth and heal,” she added.

Ignoring the processes of an international tribunal joined by 123 states, she added, would show that the Philippines is not willing to comply with its international obligations.

For instance, she noted that all member-states of the European Union are signatories to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC.

“Among other factors, Marcos’ decision doesn’t inspire investor confidence and international support in the Philippines in the long run – things that his father had to contend before his ouster 50 years ago,” said Conti.

“The government’s dilly-dallying and obfuscation on the matter of EJKs is a continuing affront to victims and to the Philippine justice system as well,” she added.

Various groups have urged Marcos to cooperate with the ICC investigation.

According to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the government should view the decision as an opportunity to give “better meaning” to Marcos’ commitment to ensure a high-level of accountability for human rights violations during his term.

“From the lens of justice, CHR acknowledges the continuation of the investigation as part of due process meant to uphold the rights of victims, as well as the accused, through a fair and impartial procedure with the end view of exacting truth and, later on, accountability from the perpetrators if and when guilt is established,” the commission said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Ronald dela Rosa yesterday said he had been advised to “chill” in the face of possible arrest by the ICC for his alleged role in the drug war.

“Let us wait for the results of the investigation. In the meantime, I have to avoid causing any problems by avoiding them,” Dela Rosa said in Filipino over radio dwIZ.

The senator said he is confident he won’t be arrested here in the Philippines, not even by the Interpol.

“They don’t have any police power. They have to rely on the law enforcement of the host country. In this case, the Philippines will not cooperate with them,” said Dela Rosa, who was chief of police during the Duterte administration.

Fellow Sen. Francis Tolentino, has advised him to “chill,” as they are confident of winning the case before the ICC. — Marc Jayson Cayabyab

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