ICC to launch ‘preliminary examination’ on PH ‘war on drugs’
The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague will start its “preliminary examination” on the alleged extrajudicial killings in the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs, Malacañang said on Thursday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the government has been informed that the ICC has decided to conduct a preliminary examination on the government’s anti-illegal drugs drive to determine if there was a basis to conduct a formal investigation into allegations that Duterte committed crimes against humanity.
“Our mission in The Hague was informed that the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is opening a preliminary examination on the alleged acts associated with the campaign against illegal drugs covering the period of July 2016,” Roque said in a Palace briefing.
According to Roque, the preliminary examination was meant only to determine if there is reasonable basis to proceed to a preliminary investigation.
“After a preliminary investigation, the prosecutor would have to go to the pre-trial chamber of the Court for confirmation of charges before the charges can even be filed in the Court. The pre-trial chamber is an innovation, it’s the only chamber found in any Court in this planet,” he noted.
The preliminary examination, Roque also said, was “just collection and verification of information.”
“Wala pa pong kinakailangang pumunta doon although our embassy in The Hague will in fact communicate the fact that the war against drug is a sovereign act, and that our sovereign consent to become a member of the court is subject to the rule of complementarity,” he pointed out.
“Our courts,” he added, “are more than able and willing (to) exercise jurisdiction as in fact there is pending complaint against the killings allegedly attributed to the war on drugs pending in the Office of Ombudsman.”
The Palace official defended Duterte’s war on drugs amid international condemnation for its alleged human rights violation.
“Because the war against drug is a lawful, legitimate police operation, it cannot be characterized as an attack against civilian populations because they are civilians,” Roque pointed out.
“It is a lawful use of force and therefore, we submit likewise on the merits the element of directing an attack against civilian populations is simply lacking,” he added.
‘Sick and tired’
According to Roque, the move of the ICC to proceed with a preliminary examination was a waste of time.
“We view of course this decision of the prosecutor as the waste of the court’s time and resources,” he said.
Roque, who talked to Mr. Duterte about the matter on Wednesday night for almost two hours, said the President welcomes the preliminary examination.
“The President has said that he also welcomes this preliminary examination because he’s sick and tired of being accused of the commission of crimes against humanity,” he said.
“This is an opportunity for him to prove that this is not subject to the court’s jurisdiction because of both (complementarities) that domestic courts; and the fact that we have a domestic international humanitarian law statute in our jurisdiction are reasons enough for the court not to exercise jurisdiction,” he also said.
‘Domestic enemies of the state’
Roque said that Mr. Duterte suspects that the opposition was behind the ICC’s move.
“He said he wants to be in Court, and put the prosecutor on the stand to ask who prodded you to proceed to preliminary examination. Because it is the suspicion of the President that it is of course the domestic enemies of the state (who are) behind this,” he said.
Roque asserted that there “has been concerted public relations initiative against the President probably to coincide with February.”
On February 25, the country will commemorate the 32nd anniversary of the Edsa People Power revolution that toppled the dictatorship of former President Ferdinand Marcos.
“Obviously this is intended to embarrass the President but the President is a lawyer, he knows what the procedures are. They will fail. The President has said that if need be he will argue his case personally before the International Criminal Court,” Roque said.
“The President has made it clear that he will communicate, he will assert the principle of complementarity, he will assert the legality of the war against drugs as a valid exercise of sovereign powers and therefore the element required for a crime against humanity is lacking,” he added.
Roque further said that Mr. Duterte “looks forward in fact to engaging the prosecutor of the court as a former prosecutor himself.” /kga