Marcos: Government won’t lift a finger to help ICC

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Marcos: Government won�t lift a finger to help ICC
President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on January 23, 2024.
PPA Pool Photos by Yummie Dingding

MANILA, Philippines — The government will not lift a finger to assist the International Criminal Court (ICC) in its probe on the previous administration’s war on drugs, President Marcos said yesterday.

But while Marcos said an ICC probe poses a “threat” to Philippine sovereignty, he clarified that members of the tribunal could visit the country in their personal capacity.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) denied reports that ICC probers came to the Philippines last December to conduct an investigation.

“Let me say this for the 100th time. I do not recognize the jurisdiction of ICC in the Philippines. I consider it as a threat to our sovereignty,” Marcos said in a chance interview.

“However, as ordinary people, they can come and visit the Philippines, but we will not help them. In fact, we are watching them, making sure that they do not come into contact with any agency of government,” he added.

The President instructed government entities not to engage with the ICC representatives.

“If they are contacting agencies of government, whether the police or local government, do not answer. That will be our response. That we do not recognize your jurisdiction, therefore, we will not assist in any way, shape or form, any of the investigations that the ICC is doing in the Philippines,” Marcos said.

Seek consent

The justice department denied that ICC investigators visited the Philippines last month and gathered evidence in the crimes against humanity complaint filed against former president Rodrigo Duterte.

In a statement, the DOJ said international bodies such as the ICC must first secure consent and approval from the government before conducting official activities in the Philippines.

“As of Jan. 23, the DOJ has not received any official communication or confirmation regarding the presence of the ICC in the country,” the department said.

The DOJ said it has not received any advisory from the Department of Foreign Affairs that the ICC entered the Philippines, a requirement that would “trigger the interdepartmental coordination concerning developments that go to the core of our sovereignty and the primacy of our Constitution and laws.”

The DOJ made the statement after former senator Antonio Trillanes IV claimed that a warrant for Duterte’s arrest may be issued soon after ICC probers conducted interviews last December regarding the former president’s war on drugs.

The DOJ reiterated its stance that the Philippines has no legal duty to comply with any obligations or proceedings of the ICC, having withdrawn from the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the international body in 2019.

Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra said the government would “not lend any assistance to the ICC, much less in the enforcement of any processes issued by the tribunal in Philippine territory.”

In 2021, the Supreme Court junked petitions seeking to declare null and void then president Duterte’s decision to withdraw from the Rome Statute.

In January 2023, the tribunal decided to resume its inquiry into the Philippine drug war.

In July the same year, the ICC’s Appeals Chamber denied the Philippines’ bid to stop the probe on crimes against humanity.

Sara probed?

Meanwhile, the ICC could now be investigating Vice President Sara Duterte over alleged “tokhang” operations when she was Davao City mayor from 2016 to 2022.

Witnesses have come forward before the tribunal to testify against her.

Duterte said she would face the accusation levied against her as long as it is before a Philippine court.

“After I became Vice President, there are suddenly witnesses against me and now I’m among the accused before the (ICC). I don’t need a death squad for things I can do myself,” she said.

“I will face whatever accusations are levied against me. But I will only face any charge against me before a Filipino judge – and only before a Philippine court,” Duterte added.

The ICC probe covers drug-related deaths committed from July 1, 2016 to March 16, 2019 when the elder Duterte withdrew the country from the Rome Statute.

It also covers alleged Davao death squad killings between Nov. 1, 2011 and June 30, 2016 when the former president was vice mayor and mayor of Davao City, respectively.

The former president was vice mayor from 2010 to 2013.

The younger Duterte also served as Davao City mayor from 2016 to 2022, but it was still unclear whether the ICC would include this stint in the investigation.

ICC prosecutors have yet to confirm if the Vice President was among the persons being investigated by the tribunal, along with her father and former Philippine National Police chief and now Sen. Ronald dela Rosa.

Meanwhile, National Privacy Commission (NPC) chief John Henry Naga met yesterday with United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression Irene Khan.

Naga said he and Khan discussed the pivotal role that the NPC plays in protecting people’s right to freedom of expression and data privacy.

“Fundamental human right to privacy and freedom of opinion and expression are interdependent pillars of a democratic society. The right to privacy safeguards people from undue surveillance, ensuring that personal information is protected,” Naga said in a statement. — Daphne Galvez, Neil Jayson Servallos, Rainier Allan Ronda, Janvic Mateo

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