‘Allowing ICC probe shows Philippine commitment to HR’

Pia Lee-Brago - The Philippine Star
�Allowing ICC probe shows Philippine commitment to HR�
Hannah Neumann, Vice Chairperson of Sub Committee of Human Rights, Member of the European Parliament.
STAR / Mong Pintolo

MANILA, Philippines — Citing the “continuing” extrajudicial killings in the country, members of the European Parliament said yesterday that allowing the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the Philippines’ drug war is the “perfect way” to cooperate and demonstrate human rights commitment.

The Human Rights Committee of the European Parliament underscored the current administration needs to show sincerity in improving the human rights situation to continue the GSP+ (Generalized System of Preference Plus) preferential trade scheme.

At a press briefing, Hannah Neumann, vice chair of the subcommittee of human rights and member of the European Parliament, said that although no one can enter the Philippines if they are not allowed, she said that will not withhold the ICC from getting access to witnesses, doing their own documentation from outside and making their decision if they proceed with their case.

“For us, asking the ICC to come in is the perfect way to do it. I think it would be very beneficial to just allow them in and cooperate,” she said.

As long as the Philippines was a member of the ICC before the country withdrew from the Rome Statute in 2018, Neumann said the ICC can investigate for the period of time the country was a member.

She said although the situation is better than it was under former president Duterte, the delegation was made aware of the continuing extrajudicial killings.

“We note, however, that extrajudicial killings go on under the new administration and we underscore the importance of investigations into each and every case of extrajudicial killing to ensure accountability of perpetrators and to fight impunity,” Neumann said.

She said that rejoining the ICC, releasing former senator Leila De Lima and dropping pending charges against her will be a “strong” sign in which direction the country wants to move that is “absolutely the environment we expect from GSP+ partner countries.”

“Rejoining the ICC would clearly reinforce the government’s commitment to fight impunity in the country,” Neumann said.

According to her, the EU is looking at a “crucial” timetable for the GSP+ of the Philippines that will end in December. There will be a two-year transition period when the Philippines will have to reapply under the GSP+.

“And there will be a major decision whether they will continue to have the privileges that come with the GSP+. This is basically the current timeframe of about two years to show the sincerity in the implementation and improving the human rights situation on the ground for us to properly assess and see how we proceed,” Neumann added.

The GSP+, she said, is built on two pillars – free access to a large amount of goods to the European market, free of taxes or tariffs and adherence to and implementation of international standards, labor rights, human rights and the environment.

“These are all international standards the Philippines have themselves ratified which was a precondition for the GSP+, and we offer support together in implementing them,” Neumann said.

“We’re now reassessing the GSP+ as a whole and we would be reassessing the application of the Philippines. The European Parliament has been quite clear that whoever wants to have preferential access to the European market needs to uphold social standards, human rights standards and environmental standards,” she said. 

Neumann said this is not a punishment, noting that the EU has to see the positive trajectory on both sides, “This is not going to go away and we have to see a positive trajectory.”

The delegation visited De Lima and reiterated the European Parliament’s call for her immediate and unconditional release and dropping of all the remaining charges against her.

“We expressed the same request for all political prisoners in the country who may be less prominent who still remain in custody,” she said.

The delegation also expressed their support for the decriminalization of libel and cyber libel cases, and the effective end of the practice of red tagging and the abuse of anti-terror legislation to tame critical voices in the country.

During a meeting with senators, Neumann said one senator, who was not named, walked out of the meeting after calling it “very intense.”

The EU Parliamentarians were subjects of name calling and criticisms by lawmakers and officials.

Neumann noted that Sen. Ronald dela Rosa raised the figure of around 6,000 victims of the drug war.

“Let’s just take the 6,000, because Sen. Dela Rosa had some involvement in the processes, he’s behind it so let’s take the number he stated,” Neumann said. 

“So, if there are 6,000 cases and the government is sincere with building accountability and investigating these 6,000, this means 6,000 cases need to be filed,” she emphasized.

The European Parliament subcommittee on human rights visited the country from Feb. 22 to 24.

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