âWithdrawal of complaint at ICC a wake-up callâ
Lawyer Jude Sabio, who sued Duterte before the ICC over the administration’s bloody war on illegal drugs, has decided to withdraw his complaint, saying he was “disillusioned” with the actions of the President’s critics.?
STAR/ File
‘Withdrawal of complaint at ICC a wake-up call’
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - January 16, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines —  The withdrawal of one of the complaints filed against President Duterte before the International Criminal Court (ICC) should serve as a wake-up call to the tribunal that it is just being used by “discredited” persons to oust him, Malacañang said yesterday. ?

Lawyer Jude Sabio, who sued Duterte before the ICC over the administration’s bloody war on illegal drugs, has decided to withdraw his complaint, saying he was “disillusioned” with the actions of the President’s critics.?

Sabio said he had suffered a lot of hardship for handling the cases of Edgar Matobato, who claimed to be a former member of a death squad with alleged links to Duterte.

He has also claimed that Duterte critic and former senator Antonio Trillanes IV and Sen. Leila de Lima did not provide him enough financial support. ?

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the “destabilizers” of the Duterte administration are slowly but surely “being undressed.”

He even compared the administration’s critics to ashfall whose “obnoxious” smell “pollute the air.” ?

“The ICC has to wake up from its stupor if not ignorance. It should realize by now that it is being used by disgruntled and discredited persons to advance their goal of besmirching the reputation of (President Duterte) and achieving their impossible dream of bringing down the Duterte presidency,” Panelo said in a statement. 

“More importantly, it should recognize the unalterable legal fact that it has no jurisdiction over the President and, for that matter, the Philippines,” he added. 

?The ICC Office of the Prosecutor has claimed that the communication submitted to them cannot be withdrawn and that Sabio’s move would not affect its examination. ?

But Panelo insisted that Duterte cannot be tried at the ICC because the tribunal never acquired jurisdiction over the Philippines.?

“The Rome Statute that created the ICC was never clothed with legal enforceability in our jurisdiction because it lacked the legal requirement of publication, the operative act that should have given birth to its enforceability over the Philippines,” the Palace spokesman said.  

“That it continues to accept communications from entities and persons relative to complaints on human rights against Philippine President Duterte only demonstrates its continuing ignorance of the very source of its being,” he added.  ?

Panelo said Sabio’s complaint against Duterte is part of the “vilification campaign relentlessly pursued by the incorrigible detractors as well as the political opposition totally repudiated by the electorate.”

“Trillanes must be squirming in his disgraced retirement by Sabio’s turnabout. Lies can only be sustained for sometime. When conscience haunts and torments the peddler, it melts by the heat of truth,” he said. 

No impact

The decision of Sabio to withdraw his communication against the Duterte administration will not impact the processes of the ICC, according to Commission on Human Rights chairman Chito Gascon.

Gascon noted a previous statement from ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who said that they received over 50 communications in relation to the government’s deadly campaign against illegal drugs.

“As a general rule, his decision will not impact upon the current process at the ICC at this stage,” the CHR chief told The STAR.

“Mr. Sabio’s communication is just one of those and the ICC treats each communication similarly – that they represent information that will need to be examined, looked into, verified, validated and investigated by the ICC independently,” he added.

He stressed that Sabio’s communication is not similar to a formal complaint that may be withdrawn.

Sabio, who filed the first communication to the ICC against President Duterte’s so-called war against illegal drugs, said Tuesday that he will ask the ICC prosecutor to set aside his earlier communication.

He claimed that his decision to send the communication in 2017 was part of the political propaganda of critics of the administration.

In 2018, Bensouda announced that she had initiated a preliminary examination on the situation in the Philippines, which she intends to conclude this year.

She stressed that the process is not an investigation but an initial step to determine whether there is reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation.

“In the independent and impartial exercise of its mandate, the Office of the Prosecutor will also give consideration to all submissions and views conveyed to it during the course of each preliminary examination, strictly guided by the requirements of the Rome Statute,” she added.

De Lima said she understands the pressure Sabio is facing from the “dark forces.”

“I feel sorry for Attorney Sabio. I can understand that he is going through personal issues that forced him to turn his back on the cause of the victims of mass atrocities. Whatever is the true reason for such an awful move, Atty. Sabio has become very vulnerable to the machinations from the dark forces,” De Lima said.

“I’m pretty sure there are forces, desperate ones, behind this development. I don’t have to imagine the temptation Atty. Sabio must have faced, urging him to put his own interests ahead of those he is supposed to be advocating for. Those voices of temptation could be difficult to resist, and commitments to truth and justice could waver,” she said.

At any rate, De Lima said it’s too late a move, hardly having any significant dent on the progress of current ICC interventions. 

She added that there are other communications and information presented before the ICC on the matter of crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Duterte regime.

The Sabio Communication (not a Complaint; no such thing in ICC processes) may be the first, but not the only one under consideration by the ICC. 

She said the worst thing is to accept the false narrative that resorting to the ICC and other global mechanisms for accountability is about politics or propaganda. 

“No, this is about human lives and a quest for justice and accountability which is never a lost cause. Atty. Sabio may have fallen, but the fight continues without him and in spite of his betrayal of the victims,” De Lima added.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson filed a proposed bill seeking heavier penalties that include longer jail terms and a P1-million fine for lying witnesses after Sabio announced his plans to withdraw the case he filed before the ICC against Duterte because the case is politically motivated.

Lacson’s Senate Bill 28 seeks to give lying witnesses – including public officials and employees who may be behind them – a dose of their own medicine.

“Our present perjury law only carries a prison term of six months up to two years and two months. With a penalty that light, we can expect lying witnesses not only in Senate hearings but even before the courts,” Lacson noted.

“It is noteworthy that because of these untruthful and inconsistent statements, we have witnessed how some men were robbed of their youth and freedom for a long period of time only to be freed later on account that the reason for their incarceration was based on a ‘polluted source,’” Lacson said.

Under the bill, Lacson said anyone who gives false testimony in any criminal case shall suffer “the same penalty for the felony the defendant is being accused of.”

A public official or employee who ordered such a false testimony shall face the penalty for the felony the defendant is being accused of, in its maximum period – along with a fine of up to P1 million and perpetual absolute disqualification from any appointive or elective position in the government.

He said that several individuals including Sabio, Peter Joemel “Bikoy” Advincula, Rodney “Ninja Cop” Baloyo, Edgar Matobato, Arturo Lascañas and Cezar Mancao II were the reasons for the need for a stronger law that would impose heavier penalties on lying witnesses – including public officials and employees who may be behind them.  –  With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Janvic Mateo

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