This photo shows the International Criminal Court marking the opening of its judicial year with a Special Session at the seat of the Court in The Hague, Netherlands.
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Palace: Only 'conspiracy theorists' concerned over ICC pullout
Gaea Katreena Cabico ( - March 18, 2019 - 10:47am

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Monday accused groups and people who denounced the country’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court of engaging in conspiracy theories as it insisted that there is no culture of impunity under President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Philippines on Sunday officially withdrew from the ICC, becoming the second country to leave the Hague-based tribunal meant to prosecute the world’s worst atrocities.

The Commission on Human Rights said “it is then impunity that wins as a consequence of withdrawal,” while Amnesty International said the pullout is a “futile attempt to evade international justice.”

Gabriela party-list also warned that the withdrawal could lead to “nastier rights abuses.”

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in its 2011 report "Impunity and the Rule of Law", called impunity the primary obstacle to upholding the rule of law.

"Human rights become a mockery when killings, disappearances, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence go unpunished, when amnesty laws exempt perpetrators from responsibility, when inquiries into excessive use of force fail to produce results and when economic, social and cultural rights cannot be attained through a judicial process," it also said.

'Open season for conspiracy theorists'

But Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo dismissed statements from goverment critics as “misleading and baseless response.”

“It is open season for conspiracy theories by the political opposition, the left and the human rights,” Panelo said, mentioning three groups that the government has repeatedly alleged are in conspiracy with each other. 

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Panelo added: “March 17 has passed, the sky has not fallen and the sun still rises in the east. Our people desire policies with immediate results rather than noise emanating from groups closely identified with the [Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front] and a defeated major political party which presently fighting for political survival and relevance.”

Not all opposed to the withdrawal from the ICC are associated with the Left—that association does not mean membership in or support of communist rebels—or with the Liberal Party, a former administration party that saw defections en masse as the term of President Benigno Aquino III ended.

Despite the withdrawal, the preliminary examination launched by ICC chief proscutor Fatou Bensouda in February 2018 will continue. The examination, not an investigation, is meant to determine if the court has jurisdiction over allegations of extrajudicial killings related to the government's campaign against illegal drugs.

‘No culture of impunity’

The tribunal’s chief prosecutor launched a preliminary examination into the alleged crimes against humanity of Duterte and his officials in the conduct of the government’s war on drugs.

“The anti-illegal drug campaign is anchored on national survival as well as accountability of those who bring the nation to the precipice of destruction,” Panelo, also the chief presidential legal counsel, said.

He said that extrajudicial killings are not state-sponsored but rather consequences of members of drug syndicates killing each other or turf wars among drug lords and drug pushers.

Panelo added that deaths in police operations happened because “suspects resist arrest with violence that put police officers in mortal risk.”

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“There is no culture of impunity under this administration. The country’s criminal justice system continues to be operational and strictly compliant with the constitutional requirement of due process,” he said.

Extrajudicial killings remain the chief human rights concern in the Philippines and these continued in 2018 with an average of six persons killed daily in anti-drug operations, according the latest annual report of the US State Department on human rights practices.

Data from the government showed that more than 5,100 drug personalities had died in anti-drug operations since Duterte took office. The figure does not include deaths that the government has attributed to vigilantes and suppsoed feuds among drug groups.

But human rights groups have higher estimates—more than 20,000 killed, mostly those living in urban poor communities.

The president’s mouthpiece urged those who assert that the drug war deaths were state-sanctioned to file complaints before appropriate administrative and judicial bodies.

“Failure to undertake this process can only mean that they are engaged in conjectures and politicizing the matter to the advantage of drug personalities and criminals,” Panelo said.

RELATED: Petitioners ask SC to allow access to government drug war documents

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