Senator Jinggoy Estrada on Wednesday night called officials of the International Criminal Court (ICC) “white monkeys” for seeking to investigate human rights abuses during the Duterte administration’s bloody war on drugs.
Speaking on the Senate floor, Estrada said there was no need for the ICC to conduct a probe on drug war deaths because the country’s justice system has remained active and functional.
He noted that even President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. slammed as an intrusion and a threat to the country’s sovereignty the plan of the ICC to interfere in the Philippines’ justice system.
“No Pontius Pilate and white monkeys from the ICC should be allowed to enter our country as they will be wasting their time,” he said.
He said the Philippines should not be deceived or accede to the instructions of the “foreign monkeys.”
This developed as Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla on Thursday assured the European Union that the Philippine government is implementing reforms in the country’s justice system.
Remulla conveyed the assurance during his meeting with the delegation of the European Parliament (EP) Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI).
As for the case of detained former senator Leila M. De Lima, Remulla said he told the delegation that she may be provisionally released if she files a petition seeking the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, which is a legal remedy against arbitrary detention.
Before Estrada’s privilege speech, Senator Robin Padilla also aired his strong objection to the ICC plan to enter the country to investigate Duterte’s drug war in which thousands of drug suspects, mostly low-level pushers or users, were killed.
Padilla and Estrada both filed separate resolutions urging the entire Senate to oppose the ICC probe.
But opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros said the drug-related killings have not stopped and the ICC investigation would not hurt domestic efforts.
She assured representatives of the European Parliament subcommittee on human rights that the ICC investigation on the war on drugs will help the country “exhaust all means” to give justice to the victims of the bloody policy of the previous administration.
The group met Hontiveros separately during their visit to the Senate on Wednesday, where they sought a different perspective on human rights issues in the Philippines.
“The international action can only help, not harm our own domestic efforts on the extrajudicial killings (EJKs). If we were to say that we alone could take care of our own cases, take into account the more than 11,000 victims survivors of Martial Law dictatorship human rights abuses who only received a small, symbolic stipend. It has been over 20 years, and yet the task of giving them justice remains unfinished. There are 6,000 cases of EJK lodged with the ICC. Why don’t we allow justice to proceed? The thousands of murders are incontestable. Politics aside, what do we plan on doing about these murders?” she asked.
“We are waiting for the ICC process to ripen. The work against impunity is so large, it is clear that we need all the assistance we can get. It is important we remain transparent about the realities of our human rights situation here,” she said.
Hontiveros also refuted claims that EJKs have stopped under the present administration. The senator added that the new admin has “not taken definitive steps to exact justice for the victims of the bloody policies enacted under the war on drugs”.
“Drug-related killings have not stopped. This is why international solidarity is welcome and necessary. We must exhaust all means and avenues, including the ICC to seek justice for victims of human rights violations. There is media and public exhaustion on EJKs, but drug-related killings continue on the ground,” she said.
“I am not aware of any actions that the current government has taken to give justice to more victims of EJKs. The convictions won by Kian de los Santos and a few others were through the efforts of the families with civil society supporters,” she said.
According to the UP Third World Studies Center, the 152 drug-related killings under the Marcos, Jr. administration exceeded the 149 recorded killings during the final six months of former President Duterte’s administration. Of the 152 killed since the start of the new admin, 46.7 percent were committed by state operatives.
During the meeting, Hontiveros brought up the cases of Kian delos Santos, a teenage victim of extrajudicial killings proven to be executed by police officers.
Aside from drug-related killings, the meeting also discussed other human rights concerns including journalist killings and attacks on press freedom and democratic spaces. The delegation shared ideas with the senator on tackling disinformation online and decriminalizing libel.
Hontiveros said the meeting was a reminder that “we are not alone and we are part of an international community of shared values.”
“Attacks on human rights and press freedom, and the massive proliferation of disinformation are not unique to the Philippines. These are shared problems we face. It is our shared responsibility to protect freedom of speech and expression as essential to democracy, and our countries need to work together to battle the challenges of our times,” she said.
House committee on human rights chairman Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr., who met with the members of the European Parliament, said “dialogue is essential for our world to move past the shackles of fear, ignorance, misunderstanding, and intolerance.”
“I believe that our open exchanges have been incredibly valuable. They have allowed us to gain a better understanding of each other’s context and perspective, as well as provide insights on how we can work together to move our bilateral relationship forward on the basis of equality and mutual respect,” said Abante.
The legislator pointed out that the Philippines “is a natural partner of the European Union in the region as one of the most vibrant democracies in Asia.”
Abante added that he was hopeful that the increasing number of engagements between both sides would deepen the relations between the Philippines and the European Union (EU) “in all areas of cooperation based on our shared values of democracy, rule of law, and human rights.”
Despite the death of thousands in Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, Abante touted the human rights record of the Philippines, saying it “has always been at the global forefront of advancing human rights.”