SolGen clarifies Marcos quip: ICC appeal still on
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine government has not retracted its appeal to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to stop the reopening of the latter’s inquiry into the Duterte administration’s war on drugs “unless President Marcos orders its withdrawal,” Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra said on Wednesday.
The official made the clarification in response to the president’s pronouncement on Monday that the Philippines would “disengage” from the ICC after the Hague-based court rejected the government’s request to suspend the drug war inquiry, which is distinct from its other appeal pending with the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber (PTC) to reverse the decision allowing a full investigation to proceed.
“I’ll have to clarify with him that the appeal itself is still pending. It has not been denied. It has not been dismissed. We are simply awaiting the resolution of that appeal, which we don’t know when to come,” Guevarra said in an interview on ANC.
“The president might have gotten the impression it was the appeal itself that was dismissed. So I’m sending him a memo today to clarify that the appeal is still on,” he said.
In a separate message to reporters, Guevarra, who served as justice secretary under the previous administration, said he would discuss possible options with the president.
“Personally, though, since we have already filed the appeal, we are not going to lose anything further by waiting for its resolution,” he said.
Asked on Monday what was the next step for the government in the ICC case, the President replied that there wasn’t any new move, as the country was “disengaging from any contact, from any communication with the ICC.”
Such a statement, however, was “unwise and rash,” National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) counsel Kristina Conti said in a message to the Inquirer, noting that the government recently hired London-based lawyer Sarah Bafadhel to help in the appeals proceedings.
No ‘persuasive reasons’
She advised the President to confer with his legal team and discuss the proper course of action for the Philippines, following the rejection of the government’s petition to suspend the drug war inquiry.
“So far, the ICC proceedings is on track and aligned with our search for genuine justice for the victims of grave rights violations,” Conti said.
In its eight-page decision, the ICC’s Appeals Chamber said it did not find “persuasive reasons” to grant the Philippine government’s appeal to suspend the drug war inquiry, pending a decision into another appeal for the court’s PTC to reverse its earlier authorization of a full inquiry into the drug war.
As explained by lawyers for drug war victims, the ruling allows ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan to continue gathering evidence and witnesses while the appellate 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.”
In the ANC interview, Guevarra said Marcos’ statement was open to multiple interpretations.
“Does that mean we will stop communicating and submitting any further pleadings in connection with our appeal?” he said, adding: “Does that mean if the ICC chamber calls for an oral argument on the appeal, we will not participate anymore? Or does that simply mean no further action?”
“Let’s just await the ruling, on the appeal itself? Or alternatively, could that also mean that let’s just withdraw the appeal, anyway they have already proceeded with the investigation? That is also a possibility,” Guevarra said.
“If I am asked by the president, since we have already filed our appeal brief, and nothing more remains to be done except to await the judgment of the Appeals Chamber, then we might just as well wait for it. But in the meantime, we don’t have to do anything further,” he added.
If the ICC prosecutor seeks official assistance in his investigation, Guevarra said the ICC official would be told “sorry, you do it on your own.”
At the Senate, an ally of former President Rodrigo Duterte, Sen. Francis Tolentino, disclosed his plan to summon Khan, the ICC prosecutor, to a hearing on two separate resolutions asking the Senate to defend Duterte from the international body’s investigation into the thousands of killings and other atrocities in the government’s war on drugs.
“I am inclined, if time permits, to conduct a hearing concerning the resolutions filed last February,” Tolentino said, referring to the resolutions introduced by two other Duterte allies: Senators Robinhood Padilla and Jinggoy Estrada.
“I would want to have Mr. Khan explain the reason why they insisted that the pleading filed by the Office of the Solicitor General was not complete, was not conclusive enough,” he told reporters at an online press briefing.
Tolentino also said he had accepted the request of his friend and political ally, Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, to stand as his counsel should the ICC issue a warrant for his arrest. Dela Rosa led the first two years of Duterte’s bloody campaign against illegal drugs as the Philippine National Police chief.
Tolentino acknowledged that his decision to provide legal services for Dela Rosa might put into question the credibility of the Senate hearing.
Under the 1987 Constitution, “no senator or member of the House of Representatives may personally appear as counsel before any court of justice or before the electoral tribunals, or quasi-judicial and other administrative bodies.”
Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros criticized Marcos’ statement, saying it was not consistent with his pledge to cooperate with international bodies on the protection of human rights.
“Where is the integrity of the president’s word? Did he not promise commitment to human rights and justice?” she said in a video statement.
“If [Mr. Marcos] acts on his decision to disengage from the [ICC], he will embarrass the Philippines on the international stage,” Hontiveros said.