Remulla says Philippines open to dialogue with ICC, but ‘won’t accept impositions’

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Remulla says Philippines open to dialogue with ICC, but �won�t accept impositions�
In this file photo taken on July 20, 2017, male residents are rounded up for verification after police officers conducted a large scale anti-drug raid at a slum community in Manila. The International Criminal Court said January 27, 2023 it had authorized the reopening of an inquiry into the brutal anti-drugs campaign by former Philippines' president Rodrigo Duterte which left thousands dead.
AFP / Noel Celis

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice said it does not welcome the move of the International Criminal Court to reopen its investigation into the government’s brutal “war on drugs” as it reiterated the argument that The Hague-based tribunal has no jurisdiction over the country.

“I don’t get why they insist on entering the Philippines in spite of the fact that we’re no longer members,” DOJ Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said in a briefing on Friday.

Although the Philippines no longer recognizes the ICC after pulling out of the court in 2019, the tribunal still has jurisdiction over crimes committed while the country was a state party.

The ICC on Thursday said it had granted the request of its prosecutor Karim Khan to reopen an inquiry into the bloody drug war after its pre-trial chamber was “not satisfied” that the Philippines is undertaking investigations that would warrant a deferral of the court’s probes.

“We’re willing to dialogue with them, but they cannot come in here and impose themselves upon us. That is a no no,” Remulla said.

“I will not welcome them to the Philippines unless they make it clear that they will respect us in this regard. I will not stand for any of these antics that will tend to question our sovereignty. We will not accept that,” he added.

Set up in 2002 to probe the world’s worst crimes, the ICC is a “court of last resort” that intervenes only when countries are unwilling or unable to prosecute offenders.

Government data show that over 6,000 people were killed in the Duterte administration’s “war on drugs.” Rights groups, however, say that up to 30,000 may have been killed.

Fixing the system

The ICC said that actions by the Philippine government “do not amount to tangible, concrete and progressive investigative steps.”

Remulla acknowledged “there are many limitations” on what local authorities can do, but he pointed out that the government is fixing the system. He cited the reorganization and modernization of the National Bureau of Investigation and the reforms in the police system.

“The timing of the ICC is very wrong because we are doing what it takes to change the situation and to build capacity in the country to be able to address all these problems,” the justice chief said.

Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra said the government intended to appeal the ICC decision.

“We wish to emphasize that our own domestic investigative and judicial processes should take precedence, and we can show that despite structural and resource limitations in our legal system, it is still a well-functioning system that yields positive results in its own time,” Guevarra said

There were only two convictions of law enforcers involved in the "drug war"—the murder of 17-year-old Kian Delos Santos, and the torture and frame-up of 19-year-old Carl Arnaiz and 14-year-old Reynaldo ‘Kulot’ de Guzman. 

Duterte said he will never cooperate with the ICC’s probe into his administration’s “war on drugs.” Meanwhile, Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, the campaign’s architect, said his participation will depend if the Marcos administration will cooperate. 

Marcos vowed to continue the drug war but with a focus on prevention and rehabilitation. He has, so far, ruled out rejoining the ICC.

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