‘No ICC probe on Philippine killings’

GOD’S WORD TODAY - Giovanni Nilles - The Philippine Star
�No ICC probe on Philippine killings�
The International Criminal Court (ICC) clarified yesterday it was not preparing to investigate the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte due to alleged extrajudicial killings amid the administration’s bloody war against illegal drugs.
Joven Cagande, File

MANILA, Philippines - The International Criminal Court (ICC) clarified yesterday it was not preparing to investigate the Philippines under President Duterte due to alleged extrajudicial killings amid the administration’s bloody war against illegal drugs.

Salvador Panelo, chief presidential legal counsel, said the statement of Fadi El Abdallah, spokesperson and head of the ICC public affairs unit, telling reporters that there are no investigations or preliminary examinations being prepared for the Philippines in relation to alleged extrajudicial killings is an auspicious development.

Malacañang welcomed the news, saying the fight against the drug menace should not be distracted by any foreign interference.

“Apparently, the change of mind by the ICC in pursuing a probe is due to the realization that the (extrajudicial killings) are not being committed pursuant to a state policy after a discreet investigation by it,” Panelo said in a text message to The STAR.

An ABS-CBN News report quoted El Abdallah as saying the statement from ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda with regard to thousands killed in the Philippines since Duterte assumed office in June and launched a drug war was a warning.

“This is part of the deterrent effect of the court to help de-escalate the tension sometimes by calling on the different parties to be careful not to commit crimes then the ICC can intervene; but with regard to the Philippines, there is no preliminary examination that has been opened and there is no investigation ongoing,” Abdallah said as he faced selected members of international media, including ABS-CBN, who were given access inside the ICC in The Hague yesterday.

The ICC also explained the run-up to the first stage of prosecution – a preliminary examination – was not an overnight process and that protocols and procedures would take time.

“If the ICC prosecutor wants to investigate on her own initiative, she must obtain the authorization of the judges, so there is control of a chamber of three judges over this matter,” Abdallah said.

“It’s not only the prosecutor deciding, the judges have to look into this decision, and the state concerned may be able to present objections to that before the judges,” he added.

Duterte recently announced that he might withdraw from the ICC to follow Russia, which did not ratify its participation in the criminal court.

Senators, however, said it might not be that easy for Duterte to make good his threat because the Rome Statute of the ICC, the world’s first permanent tribunal for war crimes, was ratified by the Senate.

Under the treaty, the ICC can step in when countries are unwilling or unable to dispense justice for the core crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or crimes of aggression.

The Philippines was one of the countries that drafted the treaty in 1998.

According to the ICC, if preliminary examinations are conducted before any withdrawal takes effect, the cases will proceed even if the Philippines has already withdrawn its participation from the Rome Statute.

Last month, Bensouda said extrajudicial killings, which Duterte had been accused of, might fall under the jurisdiction of the international tribunal “if they are committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population pursuant to a state policy to commit such an attack.”

Duterte has repeatedly denied endorsing extrajudicial killings and has vowed to investigate the alleged arbitrary or summary executions of drug suspects.

Yesterday, Duterte reiterated that he never ordered any extrajudicial killing in the country when he declared war against illegal drugs.

“We cannot wage a war against our own people… I declared war (against illegal drugs and) that is why they (ICC) want to investigate me. Where can you find (a violation) when you threaten rebels and drug lords (by saying) ‘you destroy them’… I admit it but is that a crime to say that?” Duterte said.

“Only the whites wanted to do it (investigation). How can it be a crime to declare that ‘if you destroy my country I will kill you’?” the President said during a press conference after visiting some wounded soldiers in the Camp Navarro General Hospital in Zamboanga City.

Duterte added the phrase only meant to serve as a warning against those engaged in the illegal drug trade, especially those victimizing the Filipino youth.

“EJK? I don’t know, I never ordered one. So, let us investigate,” he added. 

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