ICC lawyer: Duterte faces arrest; Bato, Albayalde being probed

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star
ICC lawyer: Duterte faces arrest; Bato, Albayalde being probed
Former President Rodrigo Duterte during an event of the Young Mens’ Christian Association of Manila on Oct. 28, 2024.
Facebook / Bong Go

MANILA, Philippines — Aside from former president Rodrigo Duterte, two former police chiefs – Sen. Ronald dela Rosa and Oscar Albayalde – are “named as possible to be investigated” in the ongoing probe of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Duterte, Dela Rosa and Albayalde were explicitly named in public documents regarding the ongoing investigation into the previous administration’s war on drugs, ICC Assistant to Counsel Kristina Conti said in an interview with “Storycon” on One News yesterday.

In a separate message to The STAR last night, she said the two police chiefs “are named as possible to be investigated because if their position,” primarily due to command responsibility.

As to Duterte, she said that she is “pretty sure… that he will be considered as one of the most responsible and will probably be summoned or ordered arrested by the ICC.”

Conti, who represents the families of the victims of the drug war, stressed that crimes against humanity had been established “at this point of the ICC proceedings.”

“The fact that crimes against humanity have been committed in the Philippines is already established. The question is, who is the most responsible?” she said.

Once those persons are identified, Conti said the ICC prosecutor can issue arrest warrants or summons even if the probe is still ongoing.

Asked how many she thinks would be identified as “most responsible,” Conti responded: “I can definitely say for sure one, former president Rodrigo Duterte – everything started with him.”

But she pointed out that when the ICC prosecutor requested for authorization to initiate an investigation in 2021, Dela Rosa and Albayalde were specifically identified.

“Individuals at the highest levels of command of the PNP (Philippine National Police) were responsible for ordering, directing and organizing the overall conduct of WoD (war on drugs) operations in which a large part of the alleged crimes were committed,” read the 57-page request.

“This includes the two PNP chiefs in charge of police operations during the relevant period, namely Ronald dela Rosa and his successor Oscar Albayalde, as well as, below them, the directors of the AIDG (Anti-Illegal Drugs Group) and later the DEG (Drug Enforcement Group), and the PNP’s regional, provincial, and city-level directors in charge of coordinating operations on the ground,” it added.

The ICC said Dela Rosa issued the 2016 command memorandum circular that launched “Project Double Barrel” and the national war on drugs.

Albayalde confirmed his commitment to continue the drug war when he assumed the PNP post in 2018.

Summons for Sara?

In the case of Vice President Sara Duterte, Conti noted that her name does not appear on the official public records of the ICC.

“But it is a clear indication already that she might be included when the ICC specified that the scope of the investigation will be from November 2011 to June 2022,” Conti said, referring to the probe’s coverage of the so-called Davao death squad.

The Vice President served as Davao City mayor from 2010 to 2013 and again prior to her election to higher office in 2022.

“Sara Duterte could be investigated at the very least, but we need additional proof to say that she was involved or she was one of the perpetrators,” Conti said.

“It depends on how the ICC will consider or appreciate their testimonies (regarding the Davao death squad). There could be a summon for Sara Duterte to cooperate in the probe, at the minimum,” she added.


Asked about the briefer that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is preparing for President Marcos, Conti said it is a clear indication that the Chief Executive is reconsidering his position on the matter.

“Now that he is looking at it closely and on a legal perspective, I think that this is an indication that he would be reconsidering his decision,” she said.

The government, Conti noted, specifically attributed its position to “existing policy framework,” making it possible for this policy to change in the future.

“Our only request is that the briefer is as fair and thorough as possible,” she stressed.

Duterte camp hits DOJ

The camp of Duterte criticized the DOJ’s statement that it is preparing a briefer on the President’s legal options in case the ICC issues an arrest warrant over the deaths tied to the war on drugs.

Marcos has repeatedly said that the Philippines would not cooperate with the ICC.

Speculations that Marcos has changed his position on the ICC issue mounted after the DOJ revealed on Wednesday that it is readying a briefer on the legal options Marcos may tap in case the ICC orders the arrest of Duterte. 

DOJ spokesman Mico Clavano said the briefer would provide an “objective analysis” of the pros and cons of each legal option, including the possibility that the Philippines would rejoin the ICC. 

Former officials of the Duterte administration maintained that an ICC investigation is unnecessary. 

Salvador Panelo, who served as Duterte’s chief presidential legal counsel, said the DOJ’s statement “demonstrates its ignorance or pretended ignorance” on Marcos’ repeated pronouncement that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the Philippines.

“The issuance of a warrant of arrest — and any attempt to serve it — against a Filipino citizen is an outright and brazen assault to sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines,” Panelo said.

“The DOJ should follow the policy laid down by President Marcos on ICC and not undermine it,” he added. 

Panelo said the DOJ should “refrain from intriguing” and stop making Marcos look like he would renege on his “unequivocal stand against ICC’s intrusion on our legal system.” 

Former executive secretary Salvador Medialdea said there is no need for an ICC briefing because the Philippines is “in deep preparation for a war.”

He was alluding to recent joint military drills conducted by Filipino, American and Australian troops in Laoag, Ilocos Norte.  

“Let’s just prepare for the worst,” Medialdea said. 

Former presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the justice department’s latest pronouncement was not surprising. 

“This is precisely why any serious intent to cooperate should have been done in writing. The fact that it was verbal sets the change for another balentong (flip-flopping),” he said. 

Palace: ICC stance unchanged

Malacañang clarified that preparing a briefer detailing Marcos’ legal options is just part of standard operating procedure and does not reflect a change in the administration’s stance on the ICC.

“The President’s stance on the ICC remains clear and consistent. However, it is the duty of the DOJ to explore all legal avenues and ensure that the President is fully informed of his options,” Presidential Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil said.

“This is standard procedure, not a change in position, ensuring that our administration remains prepared for any scenario,” Garafil said.

The DOJ issued the statement on the briefer a day after former senator Antonio Trillanes IV, a vocal critic of Duterte, said the ICC may issue an arrest warrant against the former president and other persons linked to the drug war by June. 

Trillanes said the international tribunal is wrapping up its probe and that the arrest warrants may come in batches. 

PNP to Trillanes: Show proof

The PNP yesterday dared Trillanes to show evidence that two senior police officials were plotting to oust President Marcos.

Col. Jean Fajardo, chief information officer of the PNP, said it would be better if Trillanes reveals the information he has on the supposed destabilization plot against Marcos with PNP chief Gen. Rommel Marbil.

Trillanes has given another bit of information about the police generals allegedly involved in the ouster plot – they are assigned in Mindanao.

Echoing the earlier statements of Marbil and Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos, Fajardo maintained they have not monitored any threat against Marcos coming from the PNP.

The issue was not even discussed during Marbil’s command conference with police generals yesterday, according to Fajardo.

“There is no truth to the destabilization rumors involving PNP personnel,” she said.

LP: Rejoin ICC

The Liberal Party (LP) is calling on the government to reconsider its position of not cooperating with the ICC probe.

In a statement, LP spokesperson Leila de Lima said the government should work on rejoining the ICC as it would bolster the country’s standing in the international community.

“We urge the government to reconsider its current tack of non-cooperation with the ICC anchored on a fallacious argument of no jurisdiction,” De Lima said.

“Cooperation with the ICC would ensure greater accountability. It could also demonstrate the government’s commitment to upholding the rule of law and human rights,” she added.

The LP, however, welcomed the DOJ’s move to prepare legal briefs as it signifies “openness and willingness” to address the drug war probe. – Alexis Romero, Emmanuel Tupas, Nillicent Bautista

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