Duterte allies in Senate back bid to block ICC probe
MANILA, Philippines — Allies of former President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday supported moves in the Senate to block attempts for the resumption of the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into alleged crimes against humanity committed under the government’s drug war.
Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Robinhood Padilla, and Francis Tolentino expressed support for a Senate resolution seeking to oppose the resumption of the ICC probe, branding it as “disrespectful” and undermining the Philippines’ “fully capable judicial system.”
Padilla and Estrada separately filed Resolution Nos. 488 and 492, defending Duterte from the ICC’s impending inquiry and prosecution.
In his proposed measure, Padilla said Duterte believed that the drug problem is an “existential threat to the country’s social fabric,” and that fighting it is a “prerequisite for achieving genuine growth and prosperity.”
Estrada noted the government’s review of the drug war operations that prompted the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Philippine National Police Internal Affairs Service to file four criminal cases against abusive police officers.
“This clearly shows the commitment of our government in ensuring that erring individuals will be brought to justice,” he said.
He clarified that while he voted in 2010 to ratify the country’s signing of the Rome Statute that is the basis for the complaint lodged against Duterte, he maintains this time that the ICC no longer has jurisdiction over the Philippines.
“My position then, if I may qualify it, may already be rendered moot and academic following our country’s withdrawal from the Statute on 17 March 2018,” he said.
Tolentino said he would make the same position when he meets the European Parliament subcommittee on human rights delegation on their visit this week.
But regarding the possible human rights issues to be taken up with the panel that may include the ICC complaints against Duterte, he said: “So does this visit have any connection? I do not know because from what I’ve heard, this has been long planned. You should ask them on [Wednesday] but they speak French,” he said.
Tolentino, Padilla, and Senators Loren Legarda, Ronald dela Rosa, and Aquilino Pimentel III will face the European Parliament delegation.
“There’s a prepared, agreed-upon agenda and we’ll stick with that. There’s a timeline of our evolving laws on protection against women’s rights, children’s rights, etc.,” Tolentino said.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros said she looks forward to the ICC probe after a seven-year delay to give justice to the wives, mothers and children orphaned by the drug war.
“I hold on to the [DOJ] pronouncement that they will give due courtesy to the visiting ICC investigators, not out of compliance but out of comity,” she said.
Hontiveros raised doubts about a Senate resolution defending Duterte, saying, “I will weigh the proposed resolution; give due respect to the measure, and let it follow the legislative process since this is not that urgent.”
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla on Tuesday urged the ICC to focus its probe on drug cartels instead of the drug war killings, saying the country was fighting a “silent drug war” because of cartels.
“If the ICC really wants to investigate, why don’t they investigate the drug cartels that continue to destroy our country? That’s why we had a drug war,” he told reporters.
Remulla said he met with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra regarding the government’s response to the ICC.
The government has until March 13 to submit its appeal brief, after the ICC Appeals Chamber granted its request for more time.
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