News Commentary

Dela Rosa a 'nuisance' candidate seeking to avoid ICC 'drug war' probe, rights group says

Dela Rosa a 'nuisance' candidate seeking to avoid ICC 'drug war' probe, rights group says
Sen. Ronald 'Bato' dela Rosa files his certificate of candidacy for president under PDP-Laban in this photo dated October 8, 2021.
Photo by COMELEC on Twitter

MANILA, Philippines — A rights group urged the Commission on Elections to declare presidential aspirant and Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa a nuisance candidate for saying he will move to protect President Rodrigo Duterte and himself from an investigation by the International Criminal Court.

Rights watchdog Karapatan's call came after Dela Rosa said that, if elected, he will not allow the ICC to investigate alleged violations in the "war on drugs", adding that he would do so to protect both Duterte and himself from possible prosecution.

He said allowing the ICC probe would be a slap in the face of the country's justice system.

"Straight from the horse’s mouth, Bato’s objective for running for president is clear: to protect himself and President Duterte from the ICC’s investigation as he eyes to continue the same murderous policies such as the sham drug war and the brutal counterinsurgency campaigns," Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

Under the Omnibus Election Code, nuisance candidates are those who file certificates of candidacy "to put the election process in mockery or disrepute or to cause confusion among the voters... or by other circumstances or acts which clearly demonstrate that the candidate has no bona fide intention to run for the office for which the certificate of candidacy has been filed."

Karapatan said Wednesday that "a candidate who is explicitly running for self-preservation — and not for the interest of the Filipino people — is nothing more than a shameless nuisance candidate who should be disqualified from the elections."

Dela Rosa made the comments in an interview aired over ABS-CBN News Channel on Tuesday when he said that he would only let the ICC "observe for themselves" the human rights situation in the country but not investigate. 

"I will not only protect President Duterte but also myself because we are both co-accused in the case there," he said then in Filipino, adding that allowing an investigation would be a "slap in the face" of the courts. 

Although the ICC has authorized an investigation, it has yet to make a determination on whether to prosecute.

Dela Rosa went on to claim that the reports by rights group Amnesty International on the administration's drug war was "biased because they are fed with lies."

Self-preservation, but possible substitution candidate too

Earlier, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said that anyone who files a certificate of candidacy with no genuine intention of running should be treated as a nuisance candidate.

"You are not sure you are going to run...that in itself could be used as a ground to declare him or to file the petition to declare him a nuisance candidate. It would be up to the Comelec to evaluate the arguments," he said. 

Macalintal's pronouncement came after Dela Rosa admitted that he would also be willing to back out of the presidential race should presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio decide to run for the country's top post. 

READ: Dela Rosa readiness to back out could make him 'nuisance candidate' — election lawyer

“That one of the chief architects of this murderous campaign has the audacity to run for the highest position in the land — with the explicit goal, no less, of protecting himself and President Duterte from the ICC’s investigation — should spell out the clear urgency of an international, independent, and impartial investigation into the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines,” Palabay said.

This, she said, would "hold accountable the perpetrators of these crimes against humanity and bring them to justice, and to ensure that they never hold any position in public office again."

Official police data acknowledges 6,100 deaths that resulted from official anti-drug operations. Although the government has maintained that those deaths were because "drug personalities" violently resisted arrest, a Department of Justice review of "drug war" cases has found lapses in many operations.

— Franco Luna 

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