Remulla to ask Palace if Philippines is rejoining ICC

Daphne Galvez - The Philippine Star
Remulla to ask Palace if Philippines is rejoining ICC
Department of Justice Secretary (DOJ) Jesus Crispin Remulla on October 9, 2023.
STAR / Jesse Bustos

MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla will seek clarification from Malacañang on whether the country wants to rejoin the International Criminal Court, in line with resolutions filed at the House of Representatives urging the government to cooperate in the ICC probe on the drug war killings.

Remulla is set to meet with Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin today to discuss the matter and make sure “they are on the same page.”

“I will clarify if we have an intention to be members again of the ICC because of the House resolutions, how it affects the whole universe of the ICC, and the Philippine government as it is right now,” Remulla said in a press briefing yesterday.

Two committees of the House of Representatives have initiated several resolutions urging the government to cooperate with the ICC investigation on the alleged abuses and killings in the Duterte administration’s bloody war on illegal drugs.

However, Remulla said the resolutions raised more questions since the Philippines is no longer a signatory to the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, since 2019.

“So are we going to be members of the ICC first for these things to happen? That is why I said we need to thoroughly study this matter,” the justice secretary said.

For his part, Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra said the House resolutions, if adopted, “run counter to the position of the country, repeatedly declared by no less than the President.”

“The Philippines has no legal duty to cooperate with the ICC on jurisdictional grounds, and that any such unwanted interference in our affairs by the ICC will encroach upon the sovereignty of our country,” he said in a text message to reporters.

Last July, the ICC Appeals Chamber denied the Philippines’ appeal against the resumption of the tribunal’s drug war investigation.

This resulted in President Marcos’ giving the go-signal for the Philippines government to disengage from the permanent court.

VP: Insult to Philiippines courts

Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte on Thursday told lawmakers to stop “insulting and belittling” the country’s justice system amid the supposed “sudden and unannounced” meetings being convened in the House of Representatives in connection with the possibility of cooperating with the ICC investigation on alleged crimes against humanity supposedly committed during the presidency of her father, Rodrigo Duterte.

“To allow ICC prosecutors to investigate alleged crimes that are now under the exclusive jurisdiction of our prosecutors and our Courts is not only patently unconstitutional but effectively belittles and degrades our legal institutions,” the younger Duterte said in a press statement.

“We are done talking with the ICC. Like what we have been saying from the beginning, we will not cooperate with them in any way, shape, or form,” Duterte quoted Marcos as saying.

“Given this clear standpoint, we urge the House to respect the position of the President, who is the chief architect of our foreign policy. The President has likewise affirmed that his opinion is based on the fact that the ICC ceased to have jurisdiction over the Philippines upon the effectivity of our withdrawal from the Rome Statute on March 17, 2019,” Duterte said.

“Let us stop insulting and shaming our courts by showing to the world that we believe that only the foreigners have ability to give our own country fairness and justice,” Duterte said in Filipino.

Speaker: Don’t look at me

Speaker Martin Romualdez yesterday belied speculations that the House of Representatives is giving priority to resolutions seeking the cooperation of the government with the ICC probe on the war on drugs campaign of the Duterte administration.

According to Romualdez, it was only the “sense of the House of Representatives” and he had nothing to do with it.

“There were succession of resolutions that are being filed … and we have to act on the same and we have to be sensitive, to be responsive to concerns of our members,” he said during the press conference for the opening of the 31st Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum.

He noted that people are “entitled to their own views and even their speculations but we leave it at that.”

Romualdez also brushed aside an accusation of former presidential spokesman Harry Roque that he is behind a move to ease out Vice President Duterte from the 2028 presidential face.

“Our good friend former Sec. Harry Roque, must have thoughts that well, he’s got his ideas, we respect his thoughts and opinions but they’re not accurate. So I’ll just put it to that,” he said, noting there are lots of speculations “but none of them are true.”

HRW: Support move

Filipino lawmakers should support the proposed House resolution urging the Marcos administration to cooperate with the ongoing investigation of the ICC, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged yesterday.

“More lawmakers should support the House resolution. The Marcos government should do right by the victims of the ‘war on drugs’ and the ‘Davao Death Squad’ and assist the ICC investigation into alleged crimes against humanity,” HRW deputy Asia director Bryony Lau said, adding that those who filed the resolution “are taking a firm and principled stand for accountability.”

Last Monday, Manila 6th District Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr. and 1-RIDER Party-list Rep. Ramon Rodrigo Gutierrez filed a resolution urging appropriate government departments and agencies to extend their full cooperation with the ICC.

It followed a similar resolution filed by the Makabayan bloc last month. A third resolution was filed by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman on Wednesday.

The ICC prosecutor is currently investigating alleged crimes against humanity committed in connection with the previous administration’s deadly campaign against illegal drugs. President Marcos earlier maintained the country will not cooperate with the ICC investigation.

Scrap Anti-Terror Act

Meanwhile, human rights alliance Karapatan, alongside other progressive groups, yesterday called for the scrapping of the Anti-Terrorism Act as it condemned the Anti-Terrorism Council’s arbitrary labeling of human rights defenders and political dissenters as “terrorists.”
“As we have repeatedly asserted, the ATC’s arbitrary designation powers under the Anti-Terrorism Act are unconstitutional — and using them to designate human rights defenders and dissenters as ‘terrorists’ is simply a desperate attempt to vilify their work and repress dissent,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said in a statement.

The renewed call coincided with a legal move by indigenous rights defenders Windel Bolinget, Sarah Abellon-Alikes, Jennifer Awingan-Taggaoa and Stephen Tauli from the Cordillera region.
They filed a petition before the Baguio City Regional Trial Court seeking to nullify the ATC’s terrorist designation against them and lift the Anti-Money Laundering Council’s freeze order on their assets. — Elizabeth Marcelo, Janvic Mateo, Mark Ernest Villeza, Sheila Crisostomo

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