Gov't will never cooperate with ICC probe: Palace

By Filane Mikee Cervantes / Philippine News Agency

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque (File photo)

MANILA – The Philippines will never cooperate with any investigation to be initiated by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into the government's anti-illegal drugs campaign, Malacañang said Tuesday.


In a press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Philippine government will not cooperate with any ICC probe because the country is no longer a member of the Hague-based body.


"Hinding-hindi tayo magku-cooperate dahil hindi na tayo miyembro at kahit anong pilit na gawin nila hindi tayo magku-cooperate (We will never cooperate because we are no longer a member [of the ICC], and no matter how much they force us, we would never cooperate)," Roque said.


Roque made the statement after ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda requested judicial authorization from The Hague tribunal to proceed with an investigation on the alleged crimes against humanity linked with the Philippine government's campaign against its illegal drugs problem.


Insult to all Filipinos


Roque said pursuing the ICC probe would be an insult to all Filipinos as it implies that the country's legal system is not working.


"Insulto po kasi sa lahat ng Pilipino para sa isang dayuhan gaya ni Bensouda at para sa kapwa Pilipino na magsabi na iyong mga legal institution natin sa Pilipinas ay hindi gumagana at hindi nagbibigay-katarungan. Insulto po iyan (It is an insult for all Filipinos for a foreigner like Bensouda and for fellow Filipinos who say legal institutions in the Philippines are not working and do not give justice. That’s an insult)," he said. "How dare you say that the Philippine legal system is not working. (This is) emotional issue po ito for all lawyers and for all Filipinos. Hindi po, hindi tayo ganiyan sa Republika ng Pilipinas (We’re not like that in the Republic of the Philippines)."


He cited the principle of complementarity in which the ICC can only investigate crimes against humanity if local courts are unable or unwilling to do so.


"Ang sinasabi po ng prinsipyo ng complementarity (What the principle of complementarity said), ‘The ICC will not exercise jurisdiction unless the member state is unable or unwilling to prosecute.’ Kapag sinabi pong unable, ibig sabihin, walang estado, walang hukuman, walang pulis na gumagana; (When you said unable, it means, the state, the courts, the police are not functioning) it is a failed state,” Roque said.


At ang pinaka-importanteng punto na dapat maintindihan ng lahat ay dahil gumagana po ang mga institusyon natin dito sa Pilipinas (And the most important point that everyone should understand is the institutions in the Philippines are working),” he added.


He added that the ICC investigation is not pursuant or in aid of substantial justice.


“It is not in pursuit of substantial justice. Bakit? Hindi na po tayo miyembro ng ICC. Ang karapatan at ang kakayahan ng hukuman para mag-imbestiga, upang magsampa ng kaso ay nakasalalay sa kooperasyon ng estado (Why? We are no longer ICC member. The right and capacity of a court to investigate, to file case depends on the cooperation of the state),” he said.


“My first submission is that the ICC Prosecutor has no jurisdiction. She alleged in the first instance that the Philippine war on drugs is an instance of a crime against humanity. What is a crime against humanity? A crime against humanity is defined under the statute of the ICC law as a widespread or systematic attack against civilians knowing that the subjects of attack are civilians,” he added.


He said the government will not allow the ICC to substitute domestic courts, stressing that the country's legal system is independent, impartial, and competent.


“Because of complementarity, I am confident that the pre-trial chamber will reject the request for investigation,” he said.


Legally erroneous, politically-motivated


He described the ICC's move as "legally erroneous" and "politically motivated".


"It is legally erroneous because in the first place the ICC has no jurisdiction over the subject matter of crimes against humanity as alleged in her (Bensouda) information against President Rodrigo Roa Duterte," he said.


He said the case is a political issue, considering that Bensouda's sources were enemies of the President, particularly former senator Antonio Trillanes IV and Communist Party of the Philippines' founder Joma Sison. Trillanes earlier expressed intention to run for president in the 2022 elections.


"Kaya nga po sinasabi ko, it will not also be in pursuit of substantial justice dahil paratang po iyan ng mga grupo na talagang kontra po sa ating Presidente... Pulitika po ito. Eh bakit naman kasi hinayaang mag-proceed ng investigation (That’s why I’m saying this, it will not also be in pursuit of substantial justice because these are accusations of groups that are really against our President…This is a political issue. Anyway, why was it allowed to proceed with the investigation)," he said.


The Duterte administration’s drug campaign has been under preliminary examination of the Office of the Prosecutor since February 2018.


Manila cut ties with the ICC after Bensouda in February 2018 pushed through with the preliminary examination of the communication filed by lawyer Jude Sabio before the international tribunal.


Sabio’s communication accused Duterte of perpetrating crimes against humanity for thousands of alleged extrajudicial killings of drug suspects since the anti-narcotics drive was launched on July 1, 2016 until March 31, 2017, but he eventually dropped the communication he filed before the international tribunal.


In June, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra announced the creation of an inter-agency panel that will reinvestigate the drug-related killings.


Roque said even the Philippine National Police (PNP) has declared that all drug-related deaths “in the course of a police operation” will be investigated.


In the same press briefing, PNP chief Guillermo Eleazar said all the cases of anti-illegal drug operations that resulted in the death of the suspects “or even the policeman” can be reviewed by the Department of Justice (DOJ).


“That’s why in my case as the Chief PNP, ganoon din, pinakita rin natin itong mga ibang mga pulis natin na nagmamalabis, imbestigahan and through due process, kasuhan natin iyan. At itong mga dating mga nangyaring kaso na (we also revealed police personnel who abusive, investigate them and through due process, we’ll file cases. And the previous cases) just like what I’ve said, the documents are available; we’re just seeking guidance from SILG (Secretary of Interior and Local Government). But wala pong dapat na itago dito (But we’re not hiding) as long as—if the DOJ wants this document available for their review,” Eleazar assured. (PNA)

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