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Palace won’t let ICC probers in the Philippines

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Palace wonât let ICC probers in the Philippines
File photo shows presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.
The STAR / Joven Cagande

MANILA, Philippines — The government won’t allow International Criminal Court (ICC) investigators to come to the Philippines to look into the killings tied to President Duterte’s drug war because only local authorities can probe crimes that happened in the country, Malacañang said yesterday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the exercise of jurisdiction and sovereignty is exclusive to the Philippines and the country no longer has the obligation to cooperate with the ICC.

“No, because we are a free and sovereign country. Because of sovereignty and jurisdiction... only the Philippines can investigate the crimes that happened within its territory now that we are no longer part of the Rome Statute of the ICC,” Roque said at a press briefing when asked whether the government would allow ICC investigators into the country.

“It’s a jealousy thing. Jurisdiction and sovereignty cannot be exercised by two states,” he said in Filipino.

Last week, an ICC pre-trial chamber permitted the conduct of a probe on the complaints filed against President Duterte, saying there is “reasonable basis” to proceed with an investigation.

The chamber cited the killings that happened in different parts of the country between July 1, 2016 and March 16, 2019 that were associated with the drug war and the deaths in the Davao area between Nov. 1, 2011 and June 30, 2016.

Officials have downplayed the ICC’s decision, insisting that the court has no jurisdiction over the drug war because the Philippines has already withdrawn its ratification of the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the ICC.

They also argued that local courts are functioning so there is no need for a foreign entity to be involved.

The Duterte administration has found an ally in former senator Juan Ponce Enrile, who said ICC probers should be barred from entering the country.

The former senator also recommended that the ICC investigators be declared persona non grata.

Asked to react to Enrile’s suggestion, Roque said the question was “moot and academic.”

“Well, many thanks to former Senate president Enrile. He is really full of wisdom. But the stand of the Philippines is we are no longer part of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, we no longer have the obligation to cooperate,” the Palace spokesman said.

“Now, that is a moot and academic question because while COVID is here, no one can come here except those with long staying visas,” he added.

Roque said it would take a long time before an arrest warrant is issued, citing the work load of ICC prosecutors.

He advised those whose rights were violated to file complaints before local police or prosecutors.

“The process here is faster because for our prosecutors, it’s just 90 days. If they do not resolve, they won’t receive salaries,” he added.

Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, a co-accused of Duterte in the ICC probe, said he would rather be tried and convicted by a Filipino court.

“Siguro naman it is also my human rights to be tried before a Filipino court,” Dela Rosa, the first police chief of President Duterte and considered the architect of the government’s war on drugs, told Commission on Human Rights chairman Jose Luis Gascon during the Senate hearing on the proposed budget for CHR for 2022.

Gascon assured Dela Rosa that neither the Philippines nor the ICC imposes the death penalty as the tenets of human rights abhor capital punishment.

Dela Rosa maintained that the criminal justice system in the country is “working.”

Gascon pointed out that there have been no “significant” convictions in the Philippines in relation to the killing of drug suspects.

“Yes, investigations have been ongoing. Unfortunately, these investigations in relation to the war on drugs here have not led to significant convictions,” Gascon pointed out. – Cecille Suerte Felipe

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