PH to ‘disengage’ as ICC junks appeal on probe
MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Tuesday said the country would now “disengage” from the International Criminal Court (ICC) after it rejected on Monday the government’s appeal that the court suspend its drug war probe while the Philippine government is also appealing the ruling authorizing the resumption of the investigation.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros raised this concern on Wednesday after Marcos announced that the Philippines would be “essentially disengaging” from the ICC after the international body junked the government’s plea to suspend its probe into former President Rodrigo Duterte’s violent war on drugs, pending the appeal on the ruling that authorizes the resumption of the investigation.
The denied request to suspend the investigation is different from the still pending request by the Philippine government that the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber (PTC) reverse its decision authorizing a full investigation into the drug war.
When asked what the government’s next move would be Marcos said: “We don’t have a next move. That is the extent of our involvement with the ICC.”
“We have no longer any recourse when it comes to the ICC. We have not been involved with the actual action. Merely as a comment, we would comment, and the appeal is part of a comment,” he said.
“But we have not appeared as a party in the ICC because we do not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC,” the president added.
In its eight-page decision, the Appeals Chamber of the ICC said it did not find “persuasive reasons” to grant the Philippine government’s appeal for a suspension of the drug war probe, pending a decision into another appeal for the court’s PTC to reverse its earlier authorization into a full inquiry into the drug war.
As explained by Neri Colmenares, a lawyer for the drug war victims, the PTC’s go-ahead allows ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan to continue seeking out evidence and witnesses while the Appeals Chamber has yet to decide on the Philippine government’s second appeal.
The chamber ruled that the Philippine government failed to substantiate its argument that the court lacked jurisdiction over the drug war case.
It also dismissed the government’s assertion that a drug war probe by the ICC “would create an irreversible situation that cannot be corrected.”
“Apart from merely referring to ‘far-reaching and inimical consequences’ or implications of the Prosecutor’s activities on suspects, witnesses and victims, the Philippines fails to provide any explanation as to what those implications may be and how the broad scope of the Prosecutor’s investigation at this stage of the proceedings would lead to consequences that ‘would be very difficult to correct and may be irreversible,’” the chamber said.
It also reminded the government that it was still in a position to continue its own investigation, regardless of the court’s proceedings.
Colmenares agreed with that point, saying “the Marcos-Duterte administration could always continue its supposed investigation here while the ICC is also investigating. The Philippine threat that an ICC investigation has ‘far-reaching and inimical consequences on the suspects, witnesses and victims’ is also without legal or factual basis.”
Colmenares said he was heartened by the chamber’s decision, saying it was correct in denying the government a chance to delay the ICC investigation.
“In fact, any suspension of the investigation, on the contrary, has inimical implications on the victims and witnesses as they have been waiting for justice since their kin were ruthlessly and arrogantly murdered more than six years ago,” he said.
“Any delay in the investigation would only render the victims and their relatives vulnerable to pressure and attack,” Colmenares said.
He asked the chamber to “once and for all deny the [government’s other] appeal” so the investigation could be concluded and Duterte could be set up for trial.
The experts familiar with the ICC process expect the charges to fall on Duterte and Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, the chief enforcer of the drug war when he was Philippine National Police chief.
Colmenares reiterated calls for the government to stop defending Duterte.
The ICC only investigates those who are “most responsible” for the crimes laid out before it.
‘Good luck to them’
But Marcos reiterated his earlier position that the ICC probe would be an intrusion into the country’s sovereignty while maintaining that the country’s judicial system has been working well.
Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra, in a statement, said he was saddened by the latest development, adding that it will have “serious and far-reaching” consequences on the Philippines.
“[The ruling] tends to humiliate us in the eyes of the international community, and this affront is irreversible and uncorrectable even if we eventually win on the merits of our appeal,” Guevarra said.
For these reasons, the Philippines “is not legally and morally bound to cooperate with the ICC,” he said.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla affirmed these views, saying in an interview with ANC: “[I]f they insist on doing it, good luck to them because they cannot enter our country to impose a rule of law different from ours. And our rule of law here is run by Filipinos.”
But the Philippines, the justice chief noted, has been complying with the ICC through its appeals to the court “out of diplomacy.”
Sen. Francis Tolentino echoed that point, saying in a statement: “The appeal made by the Philippines was a courteous assertion of our sovereignty, and its denial has no binding effect.”
Remulla said: “We have to exhaust all diplomatic means to get the message across. Before Solicitor General Guevarra filed [the appeals], we had a discussion about it. He proceeded to file the final pleading with the understanding that it’s really meant for diplomacy, for diplomatic purposes.”
He also wished the ICC “good luck… if they want to arrest (Russian President Vladimir) Putin,” against whom the court issued an arrest warrant on March 17 “for the war crime of unlawful deportation… of children.”
“I want to see them do that because they are big on words. But let them do it first so we will believe that they can really do what they say,” Remulla said.
—WITH REPORTS FROM TINA G. SANTOS AND MELVIN GASCON
NUPL welcomes ICC decision to reject PH plea to suspend drug war probe
Philippines declares no moral duty to cooperate with ICC
‘Good luck to them’: Remulla on ICC rejecting PH appeal to suspend probe on drug war
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