Possible ICC drug war probe ‘erroneous, politically motivated’ – Palace
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte will never cooperate with a possible but “legally erroneous” and “politically motivated” investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of the thousands of killings in his war on drugs that will just insult the Philippine justice system, Malacañang said on Tuesday.
Opposition lawmakers and human rights groups said justice was catching up with Duterte as they welcomed the move by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to request for an authorization to look into the killings.
“This is another monumental step toward justice for all the families of victims of EJKs,’’ tweeted former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV who, together with Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, filed a communication with the ICC in June 2017, adopting and supplementing the one filed by lawyer Jude Josue Sabio two months earlier. “The long arm of the law will soon catch up with Duterte and his accomplices.’’
Detained Sen. Leila de Lima, an arch critic of the president, said in a statement from her Camp Crame cell that the end was near for Mr. Duterte and called on Filipinos to pray that he remains healthy to face his day in the international court.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said he was confident the ICC would reject Bensouda’s request.
“This is now a political issue. The president will never ever cooperate until the end of his term on June 30 of 2022,” Roque said in a press briefing.
“It is legally erroneous because in the first place, the ICC has no jurisdiction over the subject matter of crimes against humanity as alleged in her information against President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. Secondly, the case even for purposes of formal investigation is barred by the principle of complementarity. And thirdly, the investigation is not pursuant or in aid of substantial justice,” Roque said.
Not a crime
“Without cooperation from the Philippine state, it would not be able to build a case except one based on hearsay evidence and those coming from communists and political opponents of the President,” he said.
According to Roque, the killings by the police could not be considered crimes against humanity because they did not deliberately target civilians.
In a statement, the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) said there were no state policies that “permit, tolerate and condone killings and other human rights violations in relation to the Philippine antidrug campaign.”
The DDB is the government body that crafts policies and strategies to prevent and control illegal drugs.
Roque said the deaths in the drug war were “collateral damage” that resulted from the policemen’s right to self-defense.
The principle of complementarity that he cited provides that the ICC would not exercise jurisdiction over a member state unless it is unable or unwilling to prosecute, he explained.
But the “independent, impartial and competent” Philippine courts are investigating the drug killings, which means there is no need for the ICC to intervene, he said, citing the investigations by the Department of Justice (DOJ) of alleged lapses in the antidrug operations.
He said it was an “insult” for a foreigner like Bensouda to say that legal institutions in the Philippines were not working.
He also said the ICC prosecutor’s efforts will not lead to “substantial justice” as the country had withdrawn from the ICC. Mr. Duterte ordered the country’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute, the treaty which created the ICC, in March 2018, a month after Bensouda announced that she would begin her preliminary examination of complaints against Mr. Duterte. The withdrawal took effect a year later.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Tuesday told the Inquirer that Bensouda’s move “has absolutely no effect” on the work of the DOJ panel reviewing the drug war deaths.
Guevarra previously said that the panel had started looking into 53 “nanlaban” incidents wherein drug suspects were killed after allegedly engaging policemen in a shootout. In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs said that it found Bensouda’s statement on the eve of the end of her term “deeply regrettable” and that it preempted the prerogative of her successor.
It said the ICC should allow the DOJ panel to finish its work, adding that the Philippines was taking “concrete and progressive” steps to address international concerns about the antinarcotics campaign.
But De Lima “most gladly welcomed” Bensouda’s decision as, she said, it opened the way for trying Mr. Duterte as an “enemy of mankind.”
“The only question now is whether his own death will come as a boon and save him from the trial and judgment of the ICC for his crimes against humanity,” she said.
Day of reckoning
“But that would be unfair to the thousands of poor Filipinos Duterte had ordered to be murdered in his fake drug war,” De Lima said. “Let us all pray for Duterte’s long life and good health, so that he may go through the ICC trial that would follow his arrest after the start of the investigation of the Office of the Prosecutor.”
Sen. Risa Hontiveros called on “the entire state bureaucracy, especially our law enforcement units, to cooperate” during the investigation stage. “The whole world is watching,” she said.
The decision of the ICC prosecutor to seek a formal investigation of the allegations against Mr. Duterte is a reminder to the President and everyone who openly supported the drug killings that “there is always a day of reckoning,” said Magdalo Rep. Manuel Cabochan III.
“Power is not eternal, and soon, justice will be served,” he said. Bensouda’s announcement prompted the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines to call on the UN Human Rights Council to also open its own investigation.
Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard, a former UN special rapporteur who was often maligned by Duterte, said the announcement was “a moment of hope for thousands of families in the Philippines who are grieving those lost to the government’s so-called ‘war on drugs.’”
“This is a much-awaited step in putting murderous incitement by President Duterte and his administration to an end,” she said.
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay urged the ICC pretrial chamber to grant Bensouda’s request and for incoming prosecutor Karim Khan to pursue the investigation.
It may be good for Mr. Duterte to now consider stepping down to prepare for his defense, according to Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes. “Duterte will not be president forever, he will be made answerable for his crimes,” Reyes said.
—WITH REPORTS FROM TINA G. SANTOS, JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE, DJ YAP, MARLON RAMOS, NESTOR CORRALES AND KRIXIA SUBINGSUBING
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