Rody on ICC probe: They won’t catch me

Edith Regalado - The Philippine Star
Rody on ICC probe: They won�t catch me
Building of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.
Wikimedia Commons

Government won’t bar ICC probers – SolGen

Davao City , Philippines — Former president Rodrigo Duterte is not inclined to believe the International Criminal Court (ICC) can catch him in this lifetime, and even if it does, he says he couldn’t care less if he rots in prison.

“Hindi nila ako mahahabol (They won’t be able to catch me),” Duterte, still feisty after turning 78 the other day, said here yesterday at the national convention of the Prosecutors League of the Philippines, as he addressed the issue of ICC prosecutors wanting to bring him to justice for alleged crimes against humanity committed during his administration’s vaunted war on drugs.

“Drugs and criminality, just like Davao, is a matter of principle for me. And I will die for it. If I rot in prison, then so be it,” he said, partly in Filipino.

He goes back and forth with the idea that he will not be caught because he is old and expects to die before the age of 80.

“I expect that by 80, I’d be dead then,” he said.

Still, Duterte said that in the event the ICC gets to him, he will face the music.

“I will rot in prison and I will die in prison,” he said. “I would like to reiterate my statement, you in the ICC, p*****ina ninyo, I don’t care.”

The other day, President Marcos said he would have to “disengage” and “end all involvement” with the ICC over its insistence to proceed with its investigation into the drug war killings in the country, despite a pending appeal from the government through the Office of the Solicitor General.

OSG: ICC will not be barred

In an interview with “The Chiefs” on Cignal TV’s One News channel, Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra said ICC prosecutors will not necessarily be barred from entering the country and conducting their investigation. Guevarra said the ICC is free to conduct their investigation on Philippine soil or through online means or by bringing witnesses abroad to give their testimonies and execute their affidavits.

However, he said the ICC would likely not receive cooperation from Philippine government agencies.

“What they probably won’t be able to do is to seek cooperation from the Philippine government agencies because the President himself said we will not cooperate at this stage wherein the questions on ICC’s jurisdiction over the Philippines have not yet been settled,” said Guevarra.

Phl can bar entry

But Sen. Francis Tolentino believes the government can bar the entry of ICC prosecutors seeking to conduct an in-country investigation into the extrajudicial killings related to the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.

Tolentino, who chairs the Senate committee on justice and human rights, said the Department of Justice and its sub-agency, the Bureau of Immigration (BI), should take their cue from President Marcos.

“Since the President is the head of the executive department, the justice department can take the cue – the BI can bar the entry of (ICC) prosecution team. They won’t be allowed to enter the country so how can they investigate? They will have a problem there,” Tolentino told reporters partly in Filipino.

“I would advise the OSG to follow the advice, likewise the order of the President, that we should disengage, no longer communicate, not to file MR (motion for reconsideration),” he said.

He said the Philippines has every right to bar entry to anyone as it sees proper, especially since the country has already pulled out from the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla had said on previous occasions that ICC prosecutors will be met with resistance from the Philippine government if they step onto Philippine soil to gather evidence or interview witnesses, as no mechanism exists that allows such an act, maintaining that it has no jurisdiction over the Philippines. While the President’s stance to “dis-engage” the ICC is clear, Guevarra said the OSG will have to seek his advice on whether or not to withdraw the Philippine government’s appeal before the ICC Appeals Chamber to outlaw the Pre-Trial Chamber’s decision to proceed with its investigation.

“The fight’s not over and the decision of the Appeals Chamber (on our main appeal) remains pending,” Guevarra said.

Last Tuesday, the President announced that the Philippines will “disengage from any contact” with the ICC, following Monday’s denial of the government’s request to suspend the investigation into alleged crimes against humanity during the drug war of the previous administration.

But the solicitor general emphasized that the ICC Appeals Chamber only denied the Philippine government’s request to suspend the investigation, but not the main appeal to stop the same investigation altogether. Although, in effect, ICC prosecutors are now cleared to proceed with their investigation, given the go-signal by the Pre-Trial Chamber, the Appeals’ Chamber has yet to render its ruling on whether the investigation should push through or that the ICC indeed lacks jurisdiction over the Philippines.

“I will just explain to the President because it may not have been explained properly to him that only the request for suspensive effect was denied, not the actual case on appeal,” Guevarra said.

“However, the President is correct –– now that this investigation will now proceed, it appears that there is no legal or moral duty on our part to cooperate because that’s the very issue we are challenging before the Appeals Chamber,” he added.

However, Guevarra noted that the President might order the OSG to withdraw the main appeal.

“I will seek the President’s clarification about his statement for the OSG’s guidance. Our appeal remains pending unless the President orders us to withdraw it,” he said in a message to reporters. Meanwhile, labor coalition Nagkaisa yesterday expressed strong opposition to disengaging the ICC as it sends the wrong message to the international community that justice prevailed under the Duterte administration.

Sonny Matula, Nagkaisa chair, said the government’s decision is “very insensitive” as it grossly ignored not only the jurisdiction of the ICC, but most especially the victims’ plea for justice.

“The President should have acted a real statesman by ditching his fear of offending a political ally rather than lose face before the international community,” said Matula.

The labor group said Marcos should reconsider his stance, stressing that a transparent and impartial investigation by the ICC is crucial for ensuring justice for the victims and their families. — Neil Jayson Servallos, Paolo Romero, Mayen Jaymalin

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