Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo rejected reports that the ICC may continue looking into allegations hurled against Duterte while the country was part of the court, despite the Philippines’ withdrawal from the tribunal, which took effect last Sunday.
ICJ/Released
Palace: ICC probers won’t be allowed entry to Philippines
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - March 19, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — International Criminal Court (ICC) representatives will be barred from entering the Philippines if they insist on investigating alleged extrajudicial killings tied to President Duterte’s war on illegal drugs, Malacañang said yesterday.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo rejected reports that the ICC may continue looking into allegations hurled against Duterte while the country was part of the court, despite the Philippines’ withdrawal from the tribunal, which took effect last Sunday.

Panelo argued that the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the ICC, was not published in the Official Gazette, which means the Philippines never became a state party to the statute.

Those who dispute this argument, however, want to know why the Philippines had to withdraw if it was never part of the ICC.

Panelo also stressed that under the Rome Statute, the ICC may proceed with a probe only if it has conducted a preliminary investigation.

“If they say ‘we will be investigating,’ perhaps they will be denied (entry) by the (Bureau of) Immigration,” Panelo said at a press briefing.

“Huwag na. Matulog na lang sila (Better not. They should just sleep),” he added.

Panelo said ICC representatives could come as tourists and should refrain from gathering information about the complaints against the war on illegal drugs. He said the ICC personnel would be deported if they conduct a probe, which he said would infringe on Philippine sovereignty.

“I’ll smile at them and tell them nicely ‘you can’t do it here. If you persist you will be deported. You will be violating (our sovereignty)’,” Panelo said.

“You’re interfering with the sovereignty. Because when you try to subject a country to your jurisdiction, then you’re interfering with that country because we have our own courts here. We can prosecute anybody if we feel (they violate or transgress) the law,” he added.

Panelo said the government has a way of knowing whether ICC personnel disguised as tourists would pursue their investigation.  

“You know Filipinos love to gossip. It will reach us,” he said in Filipino.

The Philippines’ withdrawal from ICC took effect last March 17, a year after the Duterte administration informed the UN about its decision to abandon the Rome Statute.

The Philippines withdrew its ratification of the Rome Statute because of what officials described as “outrageous attacks” against Duterte by the UN and the ICC.

The ICC, however, has insisted the Philippines still has an obligation to cooperate with the investigation.

Human rights groups and critics of Duterte have expressed fears the Philippines’ withdrawal from the ICC would worsen human rights abuses in the country.

‘Conspiracy theories’

Panelo, however, dismissed such fears as “conspiracy theories.”

“It is open season of conspiracy theories by the political opposition, the Left and the human rights activists. Suddenly becoming experts in international law and sharing the common advocacy of demonizing the President and his administration on the issue of human rights vis-a-vis the drug war, they make good media copy which, obviously is the intention,” he said.

Panelo reiterated that extrajudicial killings were not state-sponsored but were caused by “drug syndicates killing each other either for their own protection or to exact revenge against whistle blowers” and “turf wars among drug lords and drug pushers.”

“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,” the presidential spokesman said.

“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 added.

Panelo challenged critics who blame the administration for the killings to file complaints before the courts to test the validity of their claims.

“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,” he added. 

Mistake

In a post on Twitter, foreign affairs chief Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the Philippines “mistakenly” subscribed to the Rome Statute because it has no power to enforce its judgment.

“O, and…uh…the Rome Statute to which we mistakenly subscribed over the opposition of our ONLY MILITARY ALLY on the planet being a treaty provides no penalties,” Locsin said.

Then the country’s ambassador to the UN, Locsin said he had a “face to face” with the UN Secretary-General’s chef d’cabinet to announce the withdrawal from ICC.

“Uh, excuse me, I withdrew us from the ICC – when I saw a vacuous debate going nowhere, ICC playing politics and both sides becoming embarrassments to each other and to themselves,” Locsin tweeted. “Leave him out of this. I did it. And no power on earth can enforce an ICC judgment I told the UN.”

The foreign affairs chief was reacting to a netizen’s tweet about the possible role of opposition senatorial candidates in the ICC’s quick action on the issue on extrajudicial killings.

“Semantics. The point is I withdrew us. The reason is not the official stance. The official stance is me, moi, yo, withdrew us face to face with the Secretary General’s chef d’cabinet,” he said. – With Pia Lee-Brago, Paolo Romero

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