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Opinion

EDITORIAL - ICC jurisdiction

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - ICC jurisdiction

It’s an issue of sovereignty, and the government is already conducting its own probe into the thousands of killings in the war on illegal drugs waged by the administration of Rodrigo Duterte. This was the explanation given by Malacañang yesterday as it defended President Marcos’ decision to keep the country out of the International Criminal Court.

Duterte pulled the country out of the ICC after the United Nations-backed body began looking into accusations of extrajudicial killings in the conduct of the drug war from November 2011 to June 2016 when Duterte was mayor of Davao City, and when he became president up to March 19, 2019, when the country’s withdrawal from the ICC took effect.

The ICC has said the withdrawal would have no impact on its probe since the Philippines was still a party to the Rome Statute, which created the special court, when the proceedings were initiated. Under the complementarity proviso of the Rome Statute, the ICC can initiate a formal investigation if a state party is unable or unwilling to conduct a genuine probe of offenses that the court can otherwise prosecute, such as crimes against humanity.

Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra, who started looking into the drug killings when he was Duterte’s secretary of justice, has said the ICC should wait for the Philippines to finish its probe, because an “investigation of this magnitude and complexity cannot be finished in a few months.”

Of about 6,200 drug-related killings reported by law enforcement agencies, the justice department has investigated 52 cases involving 150 cops wherein police claims of “nanlaban” or resisting arrest appear doubtful. Only five cases so far have reached the courts.

Critics have said the request for a deferral of the ICC probe is merely a delaying tactic. Last month, the ICC asked the government as well as relatives of those killed to comment by Sept. 8 on the possible reopening of the court’s investigation.

Senators have said they might urge the President to reconsider his decision, which critics see as an accommodation to Duterte, whose daughter Sara was Marcos’ running mate in the elections.

While the administration ponders its options, the best response to the ICC move is to speed up the country’s probe of the drug cases. If the Philippine criminal justice system is functioning creditably well, it will leave no doubt that the services of a foreign probe body are not needed.

ICC

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