The last straw: Rejection of gov’t bid to suspend drug war probe
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the Philippines will no longer get involved with the International Criminal Court after it rejected the government’s request to suspend its investigation into the Duterte administration’s bloody war on drugs that took the lives of thousands of suspects.
“We don’t have a next move. That’s the extent of our involvement with the ICC. That ends our involvement with the ICC,” Mr. Marcos said.
“The appeal has failed. In our view, there’s nothing more that we can do… At this point we are essentially disengaging from any contact.. (or) communication with the ICC.”
In its decision, the ICC Appeals Chamber said it saw no “persuasive reasons” to support a suspension.
The ICC said this means the prosecutor may proceed with the investigation while the Appeals Chamber considers Manila’s main appeal against the probe.
Mr. Marcos maintained that the government will not cooperate with the international body’s investigation.
“We ended up in the same position that we started with and that is we cannot cooperate with the ICC considering the very serious questions about their jurisdiction and about what we consider to be interference and practically attacks on the sovereignty of the republic,” he said.
“So that’s pretty much it, we have no longer any recourse when it comes to the ICC.”
The ICC in January authorized the resumption of its investigation into the drug war and the Davao Death Squad killings in the Philippines.
In March 2019, under the leadership of then President Rodrigo Duterte, the architect of the bloody war on drugs, the Philippines withdrew from the Rome Statute that established the ICC.
Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra, who was Duterte’s Justice secretary, said the rejection of the government’s appeal by the ICC was an “indictment” of the country’s judicial system.
He said the ruling will have “serious and far-reaching” consequences for the Philippines.
“It places us in the same class of rogue nations where the rule of law is not respected,” Guevarra said.
“It is an indictment against our entire legal and judicial system, and it encroaches on our sovereignty as an independent and law-abiding nation.”
In rejecting the Philippines’ appeal, the ICC Appeals Chamber said the government failed to explain the Court’s lack of jurisdiction or to provide an explanation of the implications and scope of the investigation.
It also pointed out that the local investigation can proceed even with the ongoing ICC investigation.
The Philippines sought a reversal of the ICC’s decision to resume the probe into the Duterte administration’s controversial war on drugs, which according to human rights organizations has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths.
In February, Marcos said he would not cooperate with the ICC inquiry into the abuses during the previous administration’s war on drugs.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla declared that the ICC cannot enter the Philippines to conduct its investigation and impose a different rule of law.
“Right now, we’re telling them we can do it. Give us your complaint and we will do it,” Remulla said in an interview with ANC.
“But if they insist on doing it, well, good luck to them, because they cannot enter our country to impose a rule of law different from ours. And our rule of law here is run by Filipinos,” he said.
Remulla said the country’s appeal was a “part of diplomacy.”
“We have to exhaust all diplomatic means to get the message across… We had a discussion about it before he (referring to Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra) proceeded to file the final pleading,” he said.
The Philippines withdrew from the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, in March 2019.
Remulla, who has described the ICC probe as “an irritant,” denounced its decision to reopen the inquiry before the United Nations Human Rights Council, saying that an unjustified external interference rarely serves human rights.
Senator Francis Tolentino on Tuesday said the appeal made by the Philippines was a courteous assertion of the country’s sovereignty.
However, he noted that its denial has no binding effect.
“It will not clothe the International Criminal Court (ICC) with jurisdiction, as there was none in the first place,” Tolentino said.
He said the ICC should recognize the fundamental pillar of the international legal order, which is sovereignty.
For her part, detained former senator Leila De Lima said President Marcos, who she described as Duterte’s defender, should realize that the ICC is determined to enforce the Rome Statute so long as the Philippine government does not undertake a serious, in-depth and comprehensive investigation and prosecution of the masterminds of Duterte’s drug war killings.
“No amount of simulated investigations or the token prosecution of small fry will fool the ICC into withdrawing its mandate insofar as taking jurisdiction over crimes against humanity committed in the Philippines is concerned,” she said.
She said the Philippine government should also stop spending government funds to counter the ICC process.
She said this only benefits those being investigated by the ICC, and not the Filipino people. The Solicitor General, further stated De Lima, should just refer the international lawyer he hired to Duterte and let the former President foot the bill for his own defense, instead of spending public funds for the personal and private interest of Duterte.
“Let Duterte and his co-conspirators in the drug war face the music before the ICC. Be on the side of humanity. Be on the right side of history,” she also said.