Dela Rosa, ‘tokhang’ enforcer, unfazed by tribunal decision
MANILA, Philippines — “I’m not nervous. Just ignore it.”
So went Sen. Ronald dela Rosa’s remarks on Tuesday, when asked about the hearing at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on the government’s appeal to stop the inquiry into the country’s drug war.
Later that afternoon in Manila, the ICC’s Appeals Chamber in The Hague rejected that plea by a majority vote. (See related story on this page.)
“We’re not bothered,” said the senator and former Philippine National Police chief of Rodrigo Duterte, whom Dela Rosa had served since the time the former President was Davao City mayor.
“Let them do what they want. I’m OK [with] whatever will be the outcome,” Dela Rosa also told reporters.
The senator, who was Duterte’s first PNP chief, is essentially the architect of “Oplan Tokhang,” the former President’s bloody antidrug campaign which led to the deaths of thousands of mostly poor drug suspects.
‘Laughed it off’
Dela Rosa was among the respondents in the complaint of crimes against humanity filed before the ICC by relatives of the drug war victims.
He said he was able to speak with Duterte before the former President flew to Beijing on Monday to meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. (See related story on Page A4.)
“He’s [also] not bothered because [the Philippines is] no longer a member [of the ICC],” Dela Rosa said, adding that Duterte “just laughed it off.”
The Philippines’ withdrawal from the Rome Statute — the 2002 treaty which established the ICC—took effect only a year after that formal withdrawal in 2018, when the ICC prosecutor had already begun its preliminary examination into the drug war killings brought to the ICC’s attention.
“This government is not bound by whatever decision, whatever resolution [by the ICC],” Dela Rosa said.
Another associate of Duterte in the Senate, Sen. Bong Go, issued a statement saying that: “As I have said countless times before, the ICC has no business meddling in our internal affairs where our courts remain fully functional and free from political interference.”
“Filipinos should be judged by fellow Filipinos before Philippine courts operating under Philippine laws,” he added.
The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), in a statement, said it was disappointed by the decision.
The OSG noted that, long after the Philippines ceased to be a state party to the Rome Statute, it still submitted documents to the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor and Pre-Trial Chamber, “not out of any legal obligation but purely on the basis of comity, consonant with its assertion of sovereignty.”
Its submissions bear out the internal investigation and prosecution activities undertaken so far by the government, the OSG said, adding that the majority judges in the Appeals Chamber “conveniently brushed this aside.”
Meanwhile, families of victims of the drug war are ready to cooperate with the ICC’s investigation, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said.
“Victims can submit their testimonies and case information confidentially. They are also invited to join victim advocacy groups,” the group said in a statement, as it also urged others affected by Duterte’s drug war to come forward.
NUPL said the decision of the ICC’s Appeals Chamber has “built confidence [among] those victimized by the widespread and systematic killings under the war on drugs of the Duterte administration.”
House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro called Tuesday’s decision a “significant step toward upholding human rights in the Philippines.”
“We have long been advocating … accountability and an end to the culture of impunity in our country. The ICC’s decision gives hope to the Filipino people, especially those who have been directly affected by the drug war,” she said.