Guevarra: ICC free to conduct probe in PH but don’t expect cooperation
MANILA, Philippines — Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra has clarified that the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor is free to conduct his investigation in the Philippines, as the government does not object to the conduct of a probe on the past administration’s drug war.
But Guevarra, during the joint hearing of the House committee on justice and committee on human rights on Wednesday, maintained that what the government would not do as of now is to cooperate or provide material assistance to the ICC.
“Hindi naman po natin siya pinagbabawalan na magsiyasat. Ang sinasabi lang po ng Philippine government dahil may issues kami ng jurisdiction na hindi na-settle d’yan sa decision na ‘yan, ‘wag kang mag-expect ng cooperation from us. Pero hindi kita pinipigilan na mag-continue ng iyong investigation dahil ‘yan ang naging decision ng appeals chamber,” Guevvara said.
(We do not hinder them from investigating. What the Philippine government says is that because we have issues regarding jurisdiction, which was not settled in that decision, we do not expect cooperation from us. But I would not stop you from continuing your investigation because that’s the decision of the appeals chamber.)
“You can investigate in whatever way you want, you can talk to any person you want, you can interview any witness you want, it’s up to you. Ang sinasabi lang po natin dito, do not expect cooperation from the Philippine government, ‘yon lamang po, hindi naman po natin sinusuway ‘yong decision ng appeals chamber, hindi po natin pinagbabawalan ang ICC prosecutor to proceed with his investigation,” he added.
(What the government says here, do not expect cooperation from the Philippine government, that’s it, we are not going against the decision of the appeals chamber, we do not bar the ICC prosecutor from proceeding with his investigation.)
Guevarra said this after Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman — the author of House Resolution (HR) No. 1482 calling on the Philippine government to cooperate with ICC probers — stated that the Philippines should not be a ‘renegade’ by refusing to follow the ICC Appeals Chamber’s decision to let the investigation continue.
Lagman was referring to the ICC’s rejection of the government’s appeal to stop the drug war probe last July 2023.
“Natalo ang Pilipinas at obligasyon ng Pilipinas na tayo ang nag-appeal, sundin natin ang desisyon ng ICC. Otherwise bakit mag-aappeal pa tayo kung hindi natin susundin ang desisyon? Ang desisyon ay ipagpatuloy ang imbestigasyon. Kaya’t ang desisyon ay kailangan din mag-cooperate ang Pilipinas sa imbestigasyon,” Lagman said.
(The Philippines lost and it is our obligation, since we appealed, to follow the decision of the ICC. Otherwise why did we appeal if we would not follow the decision? The decision is to continue the investigation. That’s why the decision should be to let the Pilipinas cooperate in the investigation.)
“I think we should not be a renegade in the international community but we should subscribe to the principle of the rule of law kapag nag-appeal ka at natalo ka. Tanggapin mo ang desisyon at sundin mo,” he added.
([…] if you make an appeal and you lose, accept this decision and follow it.)
Committee on human rights chairperson and Manila 6th District Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr. — who also filed a similar resolution — asked Guevarra again if it is correct that the government does not bar the ICC from probing, which also indicates that it accepts that ICC has jurisdiction over the country.
Guevarra said that ICC has jurisdiction over crimes allegedly committed before the Philippines officially withdrew — on orders of former president Rodrigo Duterte — from the Rome Statute in March 2019.
However, what the Philippine government is contesting, according to Guevarra, is the start of the ICC Prosecutor’s preliminary investigation which started in 2021 — way past the Philippines’ membership to the Rome Statute.
“Therefore naniniwala din kayo na may jurisdiction ang ICC na mag-imbestiga kahit hindi mag-cooperate ang gobyerno?” Abante asked.
(Therefore you also believe that the ICC has jurisdiction to investigate even if the government won’t cooperate?)
“Ang basehan po kasi ng lack of cooperation ay dahil nga po until now ay china-challenge pa rin natin ang jurisdiction ng ICC dahil po hindi niya na-exercise ‘yong jurisdiction na ‘yon sa tamang panahon. Hanggang ngayon po ay ‘yon ang ating pinangangatawanan, at wala pong aspeto ‘yong decision ng Appeals Chamber tungkol doon,” Guevarra replied.
(Our basis on the lack of cooperation is because we are still challenging the jurisdiction of ICC because it was not able to exercise that jurisdiction in the correct timeframe. We maintain that stand and no aspect of the Appeals Chamber’s decision tackled that.)
“Ang sinasabi po namin, there is no legal duty on the part of the Philippine government to cooperate. ‘Yon lamang po ang sinasabi namin,” Guevarra added.
(What we are saying is that there is no legal duty on the part of the Philippine government to cooperate. That’s what we are saying.)
Aside from Lagman and Abante’s resolutions, the panels also discussed HR No. 1393, filed by ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro, Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas, and Kabataan party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel last October 17.
Before the hearing ended, the committees adopted Abante’s HR No. 1477 without amendments, in consolidation with HR No. 1393 and HR No. 1482.