MANILA, Philippines — The arrest order issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Russian President Vladimir Putin should prompt the Philippines to rejoin the international body, detained former Sen. Leila de Lima said on Sunday.
“This development ought to press (the) Philippine government to consider resumption of ICC membership. That will be a most profound step in joining once again the overall struggle for international criminal justice,” she said in a statement.
“That’s how ICC asserts its compelling moral institutional power and rally its member-states to work together against tyrants and butchers who commit irreversible assaults against humanity,” she added as she warned that protecting “our own tyrant from accountability” would only take the Philippines “nowhere but the widening path to impunity.”
This would be “a huge setback, a shameful dent in our collective conscience as a nation,” De Lima said.
The former senator did not mention any name, but former President Rodrigo Duterte is facing an investigation by the ICC for the thousands of killings that happened during the drug war on his watch.
Putin, on the other hand, is accused before the ICC of the “unlawful deportation” of Ukrainian children after Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year.
De Lima was sent to jail in 2017 on charges that she allegedly protected the illegal drug trade inside the state penitentiary when she was still justice secretary. She blames the former president for the “trumped-up” charges against her.
De Lima had initiated an investigation into the drug war killings as well as those reportedly carried out by vigilantes in Davao City when Duterte was still Davao City mayor.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has echoed his predecessor’s argument that the ICC has no right to investigate the drug war killings after Duterte ordered the country’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute in March 2018.
But his stand — the same held by other government officials — goes against a Supreme Court decision in March 2021, which states that “withdrawing from the Rome Statute does not discharge a state party from the obligations it has incurred as a member.”
An opposition lawmaker, meanwhile, said it was highly likely that Duterte would be the next to be ordered arrested by the ICC unless the government would make a truly serious effort to investigate the thousands of drug war deaths.
In a statement, House Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers party list Rep. France Castro cited the “huge amount of incriminating evidence already submitted by the families of extrajudicial killings during his early presidency.”
“Now there is a chance to stave this off only if and when the Philippine government launches a genuine and credible effort to investigate and charge those responsible for the killings, even President Duterte [himself],” she said.
But Castro remained skeptical that the government would conduct a comprehensive probe.
“With the current situation that only two cases of EJK (extrajudicial killing) have been solved and only low-ranking policemen were punished, it would be a tall order indeed for the Marcos-Duterte government to convince the ICC that it is serious in serving justice to the thousands killed during Duterte’s time,” she said.
The former president’s allies in the House of Representatives, led by Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, earlier rallied other lawmakers to defend him against any ICC probe or prosecution.
Macapagal-Arroyo, along with 18 congressmen, filed House Resolution No. 780 which cited the country’s “functioning and independent judicial system” as a ground for coming to Duterte’s “unequivocal” defense against the ICC. The resolution, however, remains pending before the House committee on justice.
According to the pro-Duterte lawmakers, “the country’s peace-and-order situation considerably improved due to the Duterte’s administration’s holistic and whole-of-nation approach in ending insurgency and curbing the drug menace in the country that resulted in unprecedented growth in exports and investments.”
They also cited Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla’s statement describing as “insulting” and “totally unacceptable” the resumption of the ICC prosecutor’s investigation into Duterte’s alleged crimes against humanity.