The Brits have a way of describing a seeming quandary, where there is no easy solution, and they say one caught in such a situation is “in a pickle.”
Sometimes, in sarcasm, they say “in a fine pickle.”
The president faces some very difficult situations where finding the right course of action, right not in terms of moral or even legal considerations, but more political than anything.
One comes from the “pakialamero” International Criminal Court or ICC.
Recently, the ICC’s pre-trial chamber granted the request of its prosecutor Karim Khan, and announced it would open a preliminary investigation on our drug war where thousands died (the numbers are in dispute).
The ICC said it is “not satisfied that the Philippines is undertaking relevant investigations that would warrant a deferral of the Court’s investigations based on the complementarity principle.”
It added the Philippine government’s efforts to probe the drug war deaths “do not amount to tangible, concrete and progressive investigative steps” that sufficiently mirror the ICC investigation.
Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla retorted we have a functioning justice system and the ICC has no business judging our internal affairs. Solicitor General Meynard Guevarra said we will appeal the pre-trial chamber’s decision.
A very terse reaction came from the chief legal counsel of our president, Juan Ponce Enrile, who will be turning 99 years old this Valentine’s Day, but whose legal acumen is as sharp as ever.
“I am telling you … I will not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC,” said Enrile.
“If they come here, if I were to be followed, I will cause their arrest. They interfere too much in our internal affairs,” the former Senate President declared.
The president has declared he will not allow the country to resume membership in the ICC, from which his predecessor withdrew on March 17, 2019. But the ICC maintains we were still a signatory to the Rome Statute when cases were filed regarding our bloody drug war.
But what if the ICC sends its investigators to the country, and they land in our territory using their UN-issued diplomatic passports?
If we do not allow them entry, or as Enrile said, arrest them even, we would be creating an international incident. That would be a fine pickle indeed.
Though unrelated, our president in the Malacanang vin d’honeur, advanced before the diplomatic community, his desire for the Philippines to have a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council come 2007-2008, and asked for their government’s support in our bid.
This writer is sympathetic to our justice secretary’s position that we should not allow the ICC to transgress or run roughshod over our functioning justice system, no matter how slow it may be.
But the ICC is not likely to write finis on the matter, which would put President Marcos Jr. in a bind, and, sooner or later, that is forthcoming.
Another “in a pickle” situation, although easier to resolve, is a scenario where warrants of arrest are issued against Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, the self-appointed “son of God.” on FBI’s criminal charges for “conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion” involving even children, as well as “bulk cash smuggling.”
As these “crimes” are punishable under Philippine laws as well, they fall under the scope of our extradition treaty with the US of A.
How shall our president react when the issue comes to a head?
We ought to respect the extradition request, although we could perhaps dribble, or temporize, utilizing to the full the snail pace of our justice system. What are the domestic political implications?
Even more significantly, how would this impact on our relationship with our ally, which our president describes in glowing terms as “I cannot imagine a future of the Philippines without the United States of America”?
We have expanded our Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement to include temporary basing facilities for American troops in four new agreed locations, on top of previously agreed sites in Palawan, Cagayan de Oro, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, and Cebu.
Though no formal announcement has been made during the visit of US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, these are expected to be in northernmost Luzon (Cagayan), in Isabela, another in Palawan, and in Subic Bay, site of the former naval base of the Americans.
As the confrontation between the US and China heats up on the issues of Taiwan and the South China Sea, and with our own West Philippine Sea conflicts, the recent enhanced security cooperation developments present another “in a pickle” situation for our leadership.
But that is a continuing saga, and deserves another full article in the near future.
As we write, a “spy balloon” which China calls a “civilian” weather instrument has been shot down over the Atlantic shores of South Carolina upon orders of President Biden, after traversing the entire North American continent from west to east.
“In a pickle” situations, truly.
During President Erap’s conflicted and shortened tenure, then Rep. Joker Arroyo, who failed to bag the speakership after the president threw his support to Rep. Manny Villar, organized a noisy opposition group who called themselves the “Spice Boys.”
They became the noisy de facto opposition.
In return, presidential son, and now Sen. JV Ejercito organized a group of young congressmen whom he called “Bright Boys,” led by then young congressmen, and now still young senators — Chiz Escudero and Alan Peter Cayetano.
It was so interesting watching Sen. Chiz tear down the contortions of the economic managers and their factotums in a recent committee hearing on the Maharlika “whatever” bill.
That bill, which was rushed in the HoR in time for the president to preen about it in Davos, has mutated several times, and, in the hands of Chiz and later Alan Peter, is likely to be “Humpty Dumpty” as we wrote about in a recent article in this space.
President Marcos Jr. has himself said it is up to the Senate to introduce a better version of the HoR bill, which was introduced in the Senate by his Davos companion, Sen. Mark Villar.
Interesting how it will evolve.
By then, the economic and business community will not know how best to describe Maharlika — wealth or investment fund, sovereign or private, and whatever else.