The International Criminal Court has received more than 52 communications accusing the Duterte administration of crimes against humanity over the brutal crackdown on narcotics.
AFP/Noel Celis
ICC bent on interfering with Philippine sovereignty, Panelo says
Alexis Romero ( - April 6, 2019 - 2:49pm

MANILA, Philippines — The International Criminal Court is bent on interfering with Philippine sovereignty, Malacañang said, after the tribunal announced that it has started its preliminary examination on the killings tied to President Rodrigo Duterte's war on illegal drugs. 

The ICC has received more than 52 communications accusing the Duterte administration of crimes against humanity over the brutal crackdown on narcotics, which has left more than 5,000 people dead, according to police data. 

One of the communications was filed by lawyer Jude Sabio, who accused Duterte of ordering the killing of more than 7,000 drug suspects. Last year, the ICC acted on Sabio's communication and announced that it would conduct a preliminary examination on the drug war. The Duterte administration countered ICC's move by withdrawing the Philippines' ratification of the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the tribunal.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers has also filed a communication asking the ICC to indict Duterte over "extrajudicial killings." Last Thursday, the ICC informed the lawyers' group that its prosecutors have started its preliminary examination on the matter. 

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the ICC is still pursuing an activity it has initiated against Duterte even if the Philippines never became part of its jurisdiction.

"It becomes apparent that this institution is indeed bent on interfering with the sovereignty of our republic even if it means disregarding the Rome Statute, the very instrument which created it," Panelo said in a statement last Friday.

"With the biased and preconceived actions of the ICC, we cannot blame the Filipino people for thinking that it has taken a politically-motivated obnoxious path aimed at maligning not just this administration but the very Republic of the Philippines," he added. 

Panelo reiterated that the Rome Statute did not take effect in the Philippines because it was never published in the Official Gazette, the government's official publication. 

"Even if we assume, for the sake of argument, that the Rome Statute became enforceable in the Philippines, the ICC can still no longer exercise its powers over the country as, in such hypothetical case, our withdrawal already became effective last month," he added. 

Panelo also argued that ICC would violate the Rome Statute if it continues with its preliminary examination on Duterte's war on illegal drugs. He said under Article 127 of the Rome Statute, a state that withdrew from the ICC still has the duty to cooperate on criminal investigations.

"Clearly, it is only when a criminal investigation has commenced prior to the effective date of the withdrawal that the ICC can continue with the case initiated. What the ICC, through the Office of the Prosecutor, is conducting is only a preliminary examination and not a criminal investigation or proceeding," the presidential spokesman said.  

"In addition, there is nothing under consideration by the Court yet as the matter is still with the Office of the Prosecutor. With the categorical wordings of Article 127, there is therefore no basis under the Rome Statute for the ICC to proceed with any of its activities relative to the President’s programs against illegal drugs," he added. 

Panelo said ICC's actions are "baseless" and "tainted with political motivation" because the Philippines never became part of the tribunal's jurisdiction. 

"We reiterate that the Rome Statute, being a law penal in nature, never took effect in the country. Claiming otherwise without the requisite publication violates sections 1 and 7 of the Bill of Rights which respectively guarantee the rights of the people to due process and to be informed on matters of national concern," he added. 

Panelo also argued that under the Rome Statute, the ICC could only act "if there is inability or unwillingness of the state party to investigate and prosecute its own offenders for the commission of crimes."

"In this connection, we urge any individual who has sufficient evidence to file a case before a Philippine court of competent jurisdiction and contend that the deaths resulting from the war against illicit drugs are State-sponsored," the presidential spokesman said.  

He said the filing of charges would determine if the Philippine government is not willing or capable to investigate and prosecute alleged crimes arising from the anti-drug campaign. 

"Should there be no cases filed, we can only surmise that no person can gather evidence, as there is none, which can prove that the deaths from the war on drugs are State-initiated," Panelo said.  

"Revelations will then be had that all these allegations are mere fabrications contrived by those who wish to destroy the anti-illegal drug campaign of the President," he added. 

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