'Don't embarrass our justice system:' Sara speaks up for father as House discusses ICC drug war probe

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
'Don't embarrass our justice system:' Sara speaks up for father as House discusses ICC drug war probe
Vice President Sara Duterte on September 4, 2023
STAR / Mong Pintolo

MANILA, Philippines — Slighting from recent House calls urging cooperation with the International Criminal Court (ICC), Vice President Sara Duterte has spoken up in defense of her father and argued that local courts can resolve drug war cases without the help of the ICC.

Duterte on Thursday issued for the first-time a strongly-worded statement criticizing the ICC’s decision to resume its investigation of the alleged crimes against humanity committed during former President Rodrigo Duterte’s terms as president, and earlier, mayor of Davao City.

This comes after the House on Wednesday started deliberating at least two resolutions calling on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to welcome the ICC’s probe into the anti-illegal drugs campaign of the elder Duterte, who earlier called the lower chamber the “most rotten institution” after it stripped Sara of P650 million in confidential funds.

Marcos, who insisted on shutting out the ICC, has yet to change his position even as family and lawyers of victims of extrajudicial killings believe the ICC’s intervention will provide the “fairest and most just opportunity for justice” for their killed loved ones.

In her statement, Sara said that the lower chamber must “respect” Marcos’ previous stance of not supporting ICC’s probe. 

RELATED: Resumption of ICC 'war on drug' probe revives hope for justice – lawyers of victims’ kin | Victims' families, groups hail ICC decision to proceed with 'drug war' probe   

“Given this clear standpoint, we urge the House to respect the position of the President, who is the chief architect of our foreign policy,” Sara said.

The vice president argued that allowing ICC prosecutors to conduct their probe in the country “is not only patently unconstitutional but effectively belittles and degrades our legal institutions.”

“Let us not insult and embarrass our justice system by showing the world that we believe only foreigners have the ability to provide justice and fairness in our own country,” Sara said in Filipino.

On Wednesday, the House’s joint committees on human rights and justice started deliberating resolutions filed by the Makabayan bloc and by two non-opposition lawmakers urging all government agencies to cooperate with the ICC. 

RELATED: Non-opposition House lawmakers join calls for Marcos to support ICC probe vs Duterte 

A third resolution was filed on Monday by Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay, 1st District), who urged Marcos to cooperate with the ICC to prevent the country from appearing as a “renegade in the community of nations.”

The vice president said on October 15 that civilians' "lack of trust" in the justice system has contributed to extra-judicial killings committed by those "taking matters into their own hands."

It's their "desperation, born out of a lack of timely justice ... that leads to a breakdown of trust" in democratic institutions, Duterte said.

Rejoining ICC?

Department of Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said in a press briefing on Thursday that the resolutions “(raise) more questions than answers” due to concerns about how the Philippines can work with the ICC when it is no longer a member.

Remulla also mentioned his plan to discuss the issue with the executive secretary to clarify whether there is a plan to rejoin the ICC.

The ICC has ruled that it retains jurisdiction over the country concerning actions committed prior to Rodrigo’s withdrawal of the Philippines from the Rome Statute on March 17, 2019.  

RELATED: Fact check: Philippines has obligations despite leaving ICC in 2019 

Government records show that at least 6,000 people were killed in police operations during the Duterte administration's six-year deadly "war on drugs," but the true number could be as high as 30,000, according to the estimates of human rights groups. — with reports by The STAR / Elizabeth Marcelo

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