NUPL, Rise Up to Marcos: Accept ICC ad hoc jurisdiction

Ian Laqui - Philstar.com
NUPL, Rise Up to Marcos: Accept ICC ad hoc jurisdiction
This photo shows the international criminal court.

MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. can accept the ad hoc jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the drug war investigation, a group of human rights advocates and lawyers said on Wednesday.

In a joint statement, National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) and Rise Up for Life and for Rights (Rise Up) urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to consider embracing the ICC’s conditional jurisdiction for the drug war investigation, highlighting that Senate concurrence is not needed for such a decision, despite the Philippines not being an ICC member.

“We appeal to the president to seriously consider engaging again with the court, given recent support from the legislative for cooperation with the ongoing investigation. Five resolutions pending in both Houses of Congress reflect the people's enduring search for truth and justice,” the groups said.

The statement came days after five resolutions from the legislative department had been filed at the House of Representatives and the Senate urging the administration’s cooperation with the ICC probe. 

In 2019, the Philippines exited the Rome Statute following ICC former prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's commencement of a preliminary investigation into alleged human rights abuses during the anti-drug campaign of former President Rodrigo Duterte. Human Rights Watch approximates that this initiative led to estimated 30,000 fatalities. .

Under Article 12 of the Rome Statute, a non-member state of the ICC can accept the jurisdiction of the ICC in relation to crimes committed under Article 5 of the Rome Statute.

The following crimes according to Article 5 are:

  • The crime of genocide
  • Crimes against humanity
  • War crimes;
  • The crime of aggression

For instance, Ukraine, which is not a member of the ICC, invoked Article 12 over alleged crimes committed in violation of the Rome Statute in the middle of the Russian-Ukraine conflict.

Meanwhile, the groups also called on Vice President Sara Duterte, who appealed to the Department of Justice not to cooperate with the ICC, to set aside personal interest and weigh on “public interest” to an “effective legal system that leads to real accountability.”

“Politics aside, the victims of the ‘war on drugs’ deserve to know once and for all, why and how their kin were killed, arrested, tortured, and so on,” the groups said in a joint statement.

The DOJ, meanwhile, said it will include the vice president’s notes and comments as a part of the ICC rejoining study. 

“The issue is multi-faceted and we must see things from a holistic perspective. In all this discussion, let us not forget that the goal is to attain justice for victims of extra-judicial killings,” DOJ spokesman Mico Clavano said. 

In a separate statement on Tuesday, Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra said that rejoining the ICC and non-cooperation are two different things saying that the Philippines has no obligation to cooperate in the ICC probe while rejoining the international tribunal requires both initiatives from the executive and legislative departments.

“This matter needs a very serious study because many factors and competing interests need to be considered," Guevarra said.

Contrary to this statement, former senator Franklin Drilon, who is also a former justice secretay, said that there is no need for legislation to rejoin the ICC as Marcos has the legal authority to rejoin citing that former president Duterte unilaterally withdrew the country's membership in the international tribunal and did not seek senate concurrence.

"In my view, the concurrence of the Senate is not necessary for the Philippines to rejoin the ICC. The Philippines can rejoin the ICC without returning to the Senate. The President can rely on the original resolution or ratification, as it remains valid and in effect,” Drilon said,"

"The situation would have been different if former president [Rodrigo] Duterte had sought the Senate’s concurrence when the country left the ICC, as that action would have been legally binding and established a precedent,” he added.

Also citing a Supreme Court decision, former Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio previously said that the Philippines still has an obligation to the ICC as the alleged crimes during the war on drugs were committed before the country withdrew to the international tribunal.

Dela Rosa's ICC probe involvement

NUPL and Rise Up also called on Sen. Ronald “Bato" Dela Rosa, considered to be the chief architect of former president Rodrigo Duterte's drug war, to cooperate in the ICC's probe for the families of the drug war victims. He said that the investigation is not "personal." 

“We assure Senator Ronald 'Bato' Dela Rosa that the ICC investigation, for the families under Rise Up for Life and for Rights, is not part of vendetta or personal grudgery. We don't have the energy or opportunity to be petty like that,” the groups said.

Dela Rosa, former Philippine National Police chief, has been mentioned in the ICC probe documents. The documents alleged that he formed his own “death squad” to carry out anti-illegal drug operations in Davao when he was still the city’s police chief from 2012 to 2013.

It could also be recalled that in March 2023, Dela Rosa said that he was not afraid of the ICC investigation. 

However, the senator admitted that he avoids visiting nations he considers supportive of the international tribunal to prevent potential arrest in case the court issues a warrant against him.

“Hindi ako takot. Alam ko naman na walang mangyayari diyan kung hindi lang ako lalabas sa ating bansa,” Dela Rosa said last March.

(I am not afraid. I know nothing will happen there but I will not go out of the country.)

In September 2021, the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber approved former prosecutor Bensouda's request to initiate a comprehensive investigation into purported crimes against humanity during the Duterte administration's drug war spanning from July 2016 to March 16, 2019. 

The investigation's scope was also extended to cover alleged killings and associated offenses in Davao City from November 2011 to June 2016. — with reports from Daphne Galvez and Cecille Suerte Felipe.

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