Arroyo rallies House to defend Duterte vs ICC drug war probe
Lawmakers led by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo are rallying members of the House of Representatives to defend ex-President Rodrigo Duterte against any investigation and prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In House Resolution No. 780 filed on Wednesday, Arroyo, who is now Pampanga representative and the House senior deputy speaker, and 18 other representatives said that the country still had a “functioning and independent judicial system” that could look into charges that Duterte committed crimes against humanity in his war on drugs.
Arroyo and the other lawmakers who authored HR 780 said Duterte made “remarkable accomplishments” in his campaign against illegal drugs, criminality, insurgency and corruption.
The 18 other House members included Representatives Carmelo Lazatin II, Aurelio Gonzales, Anna York Bondoc-Sagum, Jose Alvarez, Mary Mitzi Cajayon-Uy, Richard Gomez, Wilton Kho, Loreto Amante, Edward Hagedorn and Edwin Olivarez.
The others were Eric Martinez, Eduardo Rama, Dale Corvera, Zaldy Villa, Ma. Rene Ann Lourdes Matibag, Mohammad Khalid Dimaporo, Johnny Pimentel and Marlyn Primicias-Agabas.
“Former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s presidency has ushered remarkable accomplishments brought about by his relentless campaign against illegal drugs, insurgency, separatism and terrorism, corruption in government and criminality, thus, making the life of every Filipino better, comfortable and peaceful,” according to HR 780.
“The country’s peace and order situation considerably improved due to the Duterte administration’s holistic and whole nation approach in ending insurgency and curbing the drug menace in the country that resulted to (sic) unprecedented growth in exports and investments,” the resolution said.
It quoted Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla as saying that the ICC’s decision to resume the investigation of allegations that Duterte and other officials in his administration committed crimes against humanity, including murder, in his war on drugs was “insulting” and “totally unacceptable.”
The proponents of the resolution asked others in the House to stand for the “unequivocal defense of former President Duterte, the 16th President of the Republic of the Philippines, in any investigation and/or prosecution by the ICC.”
HR 780 is still pending first reading where it will be referred to the appropriate House committee for scrutiny. Once the panel approves the resolution, it will be submitted to a plenary session. If the majority of the representatives approves it in a voice vote, it will be regarded as the stand of the House on this matter.
Over 6,000 killed
In official reports, the government said more than 6,000 people, mostly suspected low-level drug offenders, were killed in antidrug operations from June 2016 to May 2022, a month before Duterte stepped down.
Human rights groups say the real number of those who died could be three times more.
In November 2021, the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber (PTC) directed ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan to suspend his own investigation at the request of the Philippine government, which said that it was conducting its own probe into allegations against Duterte and other officials.
Seeing no real progress in the government probe, Khan requested the PTC in June 2022 to allow him to continue his investigation. Also unsatisfied with the government’s actions, the PTC authorized Khan late last month to resume his investigation.
The investigation will cover the period from Nov. 1, 2011, when the country ratified the Rome Statute that created the ICC and Duterte was still mayor of Davao City, to March 16, 2019, a day before the country’s withdrawal from the ICC on orders of the former President took effect.
‘Circling the wagons’
Human rights groups said the move by Arroyo and the other lawmakers to shield Duterte could not stop the ICC investigation even as they were “circling the wagons” to protect him.“Important to keep in mind that the only way the Philippine government can head off an investigation by the ICC was to demonstrate that it was willing and able to deliver justice for the victims,” Carlos Conde, senior researcher for the US-based Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
He noted that the government “was already given the opportunity to show that the justice system was working enough to make the ICC superfluous … and the Pre-Trial Chamber has come to the conclusion that it has failed.”
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said the Arroyo resolution was a “grave insult to the thousands of victims of extrajudicial killings and their families—citizens of this country who suffered inhuman treatment from a murderous regime.”
She noted that the initiators of the resolution were among those who “cheered on Duterte and are now seemingly aiding him in evading accountability while poor Filipinos were being summarily killed.”
Slamming Arroyo, whose administration was equally marred by allegations of human rights abuses led by her alleged henchman, Jovito “The Butcher” Palparan, Palabay said the resolution reeked of how “one fascist President supported another.”