Bureau of Immigration: No entry ban on ICC probers

Sheila Crisostomo, Mark Ernest Villeza, Nillicent Bautista - The Philippine Star
Bureau of Immigration: No entry ban on ICC probers
File photo shows passengers waiting in line at the immigration area as the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 services more international flight departures and arrivals.
The STAR / Rudy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — Unless they are blacklisted by the courts or deemed as undesirable aliens, investigators from the International Criminal Court (ICC) looking into the conduct of the war on drugs under Rodrigo Duterte are free to enter the country.

Bureau of Immigration spokesperson Dana Sandoval made this clear yesterday when asked at a press briefing if the BI had received any instructions from President Marcos to prevent ICC investigators from entering the country.

“If there’s a court order or they are ordered blacklisted for being undesirable aliens, if they fall under that category then we will implement the order, but other than that, there’s no directive,” Sandoval said in Filipino and English.

“We won’t be able to implement anything” if visiting ICC probers are not seen as threats or undesirable aliens, she added.

Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra also said ICC investigators are still allowed to enter the country.

“From my point of view, for as long as there will be no legal activities to be conducted here, that they have the proper travel documents, I do not see any reason why they should be prevented from coming in because they are going to interview certain persons, gather certain documents,” he said in an interview with CNN.

But he stressed the BI and the Department of Justice ultimately have the discretion under the law to “admit or not admit a certain person who they may consider as undesirable.” The DOJ has jurisdiction over the BI.

Last July, the ICC appeals chamber confirmed the ICC prosecutor’s resumption of the investigation on Duterte’s possible culpability for crimes against humanity for ordering or allowing the execution of thousands of suspected drug offenders and other criminals when he was mayor of Davao City and as president from 2016 to 2022.

Official estimates put the number of deaths at more than 6,000, but some groups said Duterte’s bloody anti-drug campaign may have killed more than 20,000.

In an interview yesterday, Guevarra reiterated that the government has no “legal duty or legal obligation” to cooperate with the ICC in its investigation on the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.

“The matter of cooperation is a political decision. We have repeatedly stated that we are under no legal duty to cooperate,” Guevarra said.

He said that cooperating with the ICC, despite the absence of legal duty, is a “political decision” only President Marcos can make.

‘Constitutional requirement’

Guevarra pointed out, however, that Senate concurrence is a “constitutional requirement” should the President decide to return to the Rome Statute establishing the ICC.

“If we are rejoining or joining any other treaty for that matter, it’s a constitutional requirement that two-thirds concurrence of the Senate is required,” he said.

The former justice secretary said the international court can no longer exercise its jurisdiction after the Philippines withdrew in 2019.

In May 2021, the ICC Office of the Prosecutor requested authorization to initiate an investigation into the crimes allegedly committed during the war on drugs.

“The trigger for the exercise of that jurisdiction did not happen at the right time and, therefore, for that reason, the ICC could not exercise its jurisdiction anymore,” he said.

On Nov. 29, House joint committees approved resolutions urging the Marcos administration to cooperate with the ICC investigation on the Duterte administration’s bloody drug war.

Proponents of the resolutions urged their colleagues to prioritize respect for the rule of law over relations with the former president and his “defenders.”

House Resolutions 1477, 1393 and 1482 express the chamber’s position on allowing the ICC, but lack the force of law to make it happen.

A push to have the Senate come up with a counterpart resolution is gaining traction despite criticism from allies of Duterte.

Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin clarified that Marcos’ statement about studying proposals to return to the ICC doesn’t imply an immediate decision to rejoin.

Meanwhile, the Makabayan bloc has accused Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa of attempting to divert public attention from the ICC issue by calling for an investigation on alleged recruitment of students in educational institutions by communist rebels.

Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas questioned at a press briefing the timing of the hearing of the committee on public order, chaired by Dela Rosa, on the alleged communist recruitment at schools.

“It is unacceptable that Bato is wasting the Senate’s resources in conducting hearing to divert public attention from the issue of ‘war on drugs’ with which he was involved,” she said.

Brosas noted that during the hearing, Dela Rosa mentioned nothing but lies against activists and the fabricated cases filed by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict against “progressive groups and individuals.”

“We would also like to remind Bato that his attempts to derail our efforts to push for the ICC’s investigation because he was involved in it and ex-president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs – it won’t deter us. Unlike what he has been saying, the evidence against him and Duterte are not fabricated,” she added.

During the hearing, Dela Rosa announced that he wants to investigate Kabataan party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel for his involvement in such recruitment.

For his part, Manuel said in a statement that government officials should not use their positions to escape from liability and to attack people who are pushing for justice.

He said that Dela Rosa is like a “broken record” as he already made the accusation against him and former Kabataan representative Sarah Elago who had been charged several times. Such cases were dismissed eventually.

“What Sen. Bato is doing is not investigation but witch-hunt against the youth who just want to monitor the programs of the government,” he maintained.

Manuel added if there are people who should be investigated, it is Dela Rosa and Duterte.

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