Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile on Monday recommended that investigators working for the International Criminal Court (ICC) be arrested if they come into the country without government permission to probe the Duterte administration’s bloody war on drugs.
The Philippines “will not allow any of our officials to be investigated or tried by the International Criminal Court,” Enrile told reporters Monday.
“As the lawyer of the President, as far as I am concerned, I do not recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court of Justice. They have no sovereign power over us,” Enrile said.
“If they come here, if I were to be followed, I will cause their arrest. They interfere too much in our internal affairs,” he said.
“We do not have an uncivilized judicial system. I will not allow them to come to the country to investigate here. They have to ask permission,” he added.
Last week, the ICC said it would resume investigations into extrajudicial killings during former President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.
Government data showed that 6,181 people were killed in Duterte’s war on drugs but human rights groups have questioned the figure, saying that the real figure could be as high as 30,000.
Enrile defended Duterte’s war on drugs, saying that the former President was acting within the bounds of the Constitution.
Enrile said that he and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. have yet to discuss the topic, calling it “a non-issue.”
The Marcos administration has shown no signs of cooperating with the ICC.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) said the Philippine government can conduct its own probe into the drug war, saying that it has created a special task force to do so.
The ICC, however, has dismissed the activities of this task force, saying it has not even interviewed witnesses but merely relies on reports.
On Monday, the Philippine National Police (PNP) called on the ICC to respect the country’s sovereignty and acknowledge the capacity of its judicial system.
PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. made this remark after the ICC approved an investigation into the country’s anti-drug campaign under the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte.
“The PNP has always maintained, that the Philippines has a robust, efficient, and functioning criminal justice system with active legal proceedings and remedies available to address any claim of human rights abuses in the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign.”
“This is evidenced by ongoing investigations on all drug-related deaths and cases of successful prosecution of some government personnel involved in related crimes,” Azurin told reporters in a press briefing at Camp Crame.
He said there are administrative cases being handled by the PNP Internal Affairs Service (IAS) and drug cases filed in court against drug suspects that rightfully describe the active stance of the PNP in addressing both the country’s drug problem and internal discipline issues in the police force.
Azurin said they are fully cooperating with the Department of Justice (DOJ) in reviewing cases involving police personnel found liable for lapses in police operational procedures in anti-illegal drugs operations.
“Our case reviews of our drug operations from 2016 to date continue and yes we had been providing also the DOJ, especially during the time of Chief PNP (Guillermo) Eleazar, we submitted I think over 300 case folders of which 52 cases have been completed that is a case against our PNP operatives pertaining to their drug operations.”
“That’s why don’t see any reason why the ICC would come in to investigate because our police are still investigating in tandem with the DOJ,” he said.
Also on Monday, a DOJ official said United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Morris Tidball-Binz is expected to come to the Philippines this February upon the invitation of Justice Secretary Crispin Remulla.
Justice Assistant Secretary and spokesperson Jose Dominic Clavano said that on request of Remulla, Tidball-Binz will investigate the country’s process and conduct of investigations in relation to extrajudicial killings.
“When he comes here, we will show him all, including the status of investigations and we are confident that he will see we are doing something,” Clavano said.
In December, he said that the UN Special Rapporteur on the Sale and Sexual Exploitation of Children Mama Fatima Singhateh was in the Philippines.
“Singhateh became aware that we have mechanisms [and] processes concerning online exploitation. And this is what we expect will happen with Tidball-Binz,” the DOJ official said.
Clavano said 290 cases of deaths during illegal drug operations have been under various stages of investigation and prosecution.
He added that the department would not stop at the 290 cases.
“We pick up a lot of information from civil society groups. There are many who go to the DOJ to tell their stories,” the Justice official said.
“This is a good development because, before, they were afraid to go to the authorities. Right now, we see that they are open to the authorities, which shows how trustworthy the current administration is,” he added.
Clavano also said the National Bureau of Investigation has a special task force and the DOJ has a special panel of prosecutors to handle all these cases.
But opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros said the Marcos administration should not seek to delay the ICC probe, saying both the DOJ and the ICC should have one goal—justice for the victims of extrajudicial killings.
“What’s difficult about helping each other? We should not reject any help,” she said. She said in the Philippines, there are many loopholes in the justice system, with the rich and powerful being favored while the poor are being buried.