Proposal to rejoin ICC being studied

MANILA, Philippines — Proposals for the country’s rejoining the International Criminal Court are “under study,” President Marcos said yesterday, raising the possibility of ICC prosecutors being allowed to investigate and possibly prosecute former president Rodrigo Duterte for crimes against humanity in the conduct of his bloody war on drugs.

Marcos, however, also said that while he sees nothing unusual with the filing of resolutions in the House of Representatives urging the government to cooperate with the ICC, the country’s judicial system is functioning well and thus can handle such task.

In March 2018, Duterte ordered the Philippines’ withdrawal from the Rome Statute after then ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced the launch of a preliminary examination on the drug killings. The Rome Statute created the ICC.

“There is also a question: should we return under the fold of the ICC? So that’s again under study. So we’ll just keep looking at it and see what our options are,” Marcos said.

“That issue is simple. Maybe it’s not right that outsiders, foreigners will tell us who among our police will be investigated, who will be arrested, who will be imprisoned. Maybe that’s not right. Filipinos should be the ones doing that. We have the police. We have the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation). We have DOJ (Department of Justice). They can do that job. And that’s really where the conflict is,” the President said in Filipino.

Marcos noted that cooperating with the court may have serious implications on the country’s judicial system and even sovereignty, considering Duterte’s decision to withdraw.

“But as I have always said, there are still some problems in terms of jurisdiction and sovereignty. Now, if you can solve those problems then that would be something else. But those questions are quite fundamental,” he said.

“Because if you’re talking about the sovereign – jurisdiction of the ICC, especially since we have withdrawn from the Rome Statute a few years back, that brings into question whether or not this (probe on Duterte drug war) is actually possible,” the President said.

Marcos made the remarks when asked in a media interview in Taguig City to comment on the call of some lawmakers on government agencies to assist the ICC in its investigation on the former president’s campaign against illegal drugs, which had killed thousands of alleged drug offenders.

“This is not unusual. It’s really a sense of the House resolution and the sense – they are just expressing or manifesting the sense of the House that perhaps it’s time to allow or to cooperate with the ICC investigation,” the President said.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla on Thursday said he would seek clarification from Malacañang on the possibility of the country rejoining the ICC in line with the resolutions filed in the House of Representatives urging the government to cooperate in the ICC probe on Duterte.

Over 6,000 have been killed in Duterte’s drug war based on government data. However, human rights groups said the number of dead could be several times higher.

Duterte had said he would rather die than face the ICC investigation on his deadly drug war.

‘Courteous and diplomatic’

For the former president’s spokesman and legal counsel, President Marcos was just being “courteous and diplomatic” to lawmakers when he said his administration is studying the possibility of the country rejoining the ICC.

“PBBM (President Bongbong Marcos)’s reference to undertaking an ‘under study’ on the House resolution asking the Executive department to cooperate with the ICC and allow an investigation on the alleged extra-judicial killings is a courteous and diplomatic response to the said House resolution,” Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

“The last statement of PBBM that it’s not right for any foreign country to dictate on whom we will file charges against for unlawful acts or for any of them to investigate and prosecute Filipinos or put them to trial for such violations – is unequivocal and consistent with his oft-repeated pronouncement, which is constitutionally correct, that the ICC has no jurisdiction over our country, having officially withdrawn as member of the ICC,” Panelo said.

Panelo said ICC’s insistence on investigating Duterte is not only an insult to the country but an assault on its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

He said Marcos, as head of state, is the chief architect of foreign policy.

“Having made repeated pronouncements on the absence of jurisdiction by the ICC over our country, it behooves the legislature as another branch of government to support the official position of the President,” he said.

“To do otherwise is to undermine the authority of the President and present to the outside world that the two branches of our government are at war with each other,” Panelo said.

Earlier, the House of Representatives’ joint committees on human rights and justice started hearing House Resolutions 1477 and 1399 that call on concerned government agencies and departments to work with the ICC.

The development came amid a word war between the House leadership and the former president, who called the chamber a “rotten institution” after it rejected the P650 million in confidential funds requested by his daughter, Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte.

Reps. Benny Abante and Ramon Rodrigo Gutierrez of 1-Rider party-list authored HR 1477, while party-list Reps. France Castro of ACT Teachers, Raoul Manuel of Kabataan and Arlene Brosas of Gabriela sponsored HR 1393.

A similar measure, HR 1482, was filed by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, who manifested during the hearing that the Philippines “must cooperate with ICC.”

Lagman argued the jurisdiction of the ICC “covered crimes committed in the Philippines took effect on Nov. 1, 2011 after the Philippines acceded to the Rome Statute.”

In an interview in July, Marcos said the Philippines was done with the ICC after it decided to pursue its investigation on Duterte’s drug war.

“That’s it. We have no more appeals pending. We have no more actions being taken. So, I suppose that puts an end to our dealings with the ICC,” Marcos said then.

Not a priority

In a statement, meanwhile, House Majority Leader and Zamboanga City Rep. Manuel Dalipe said there is no instruction from Speaker Martin Romualdez to prioritize the House resolutions seeking government cooperation with the ICC.

In “extraordinary cases where the Speaker wants to expedite House action on certain measures, he would usually ask the House committee on rules…  to prioritize the schedule of deliberations and plenary action,” Dalipe said.

“As chair of the committee on rules, I know for a fact that there is no instruction from the Office of the Speaker that requires us to give special attention to the House resolutions seeking our cooperation with the ICC,” he said.

Dalipe added the measures would be treated like all other House resolutions, as “we have to respect the autonomy of the legislative process and the necessity for adherence to establish procedures.”

He said Duterte is “held in high esteem by the House leadership, including Speaker Romualdez, but it will not suppress any member of Congress advocating for ICC support in investigating his anti-drug campaign.”

“The democratic principles that underpin the legislative process allow for the expression of diverse opinions. The House is composed of 310 independent minds and diverse cultural and political backgrounds, so it is important that we hear the sentiment of everyone,” he said.

He added the House leadership acknowledges the “diversity of opinions within the legislative body and encourages a respectful exchange of ideas.”

“The democratic process allows for constructive debate, ensuring that all perspectives are considered in the formulation of legislative decisions,” he maintained.

“All members of the House are entitled to voice their perspectives within the democratic framework, ensuring a robust and inclusive discussion on matters of national importance,” Dalipe added. — Sheila Crisostomo

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