Cebu News

CHR to Marcos: Welcome ICC

The Freeman

MANILA, Philippines — Instead of hostility, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) invited the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to see the International Criminal Court's (ICC) decision to reopen the "drug war" probe as an opportunity to ensure accountability.

The ICC's Pre-Trial Chamber I recently authorized Prosecutor Karim Ahmad Khan to proceed with the suspended investigation into the crimes against humanity allegedly linked to the deadly anti-narcotics campaign of former President Rodrigo Duterte.

"In the interest of justice and accountability, CHR urges the Government of the Philippines to view the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber decision as an opportunity to fulfil President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s earlier commitment in ensuring a 'high-level of accountability' for human issues and violations during his term," said the commission Saturday.

"Let this development be a chance for the Philippines to demonstrate openness and transparency as part of the fraternity of nations that values human rights and the rule of law."

Official figures from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency pin the number of deaths in anti-drug operations to be 6,252. Rights groups, however, say that numbers go as high as 30,000 due to extrajudicial killings and involvement of vigilante groups.

Some high profile drug war casualties were later on proven to be innocent in court, with cases of teenagers Kian delos Santos, Carl Arnaiz and Reynaldo de Guzman being among the most prominent after police officials planted evidences and tortured them.

"As the independent national human rights institution of the Philippines, CHR extends its openness and willingness to assist the present administration in upholding the rights and dignity of all," the commission said.

"CHR acknowledges that there are present efforts being done by the current administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr in improving the human rights situation in the country. The ICC investigation is an opportune occasion for the present government to take the right track in upholding its human rights obligations, especially for those wronged and violated."

Why suspended?

The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber in September 2021 had first authorized the full investigation into the country's human rights situation. However, the Philippine government in November 2021 requested the ICC to have it suspended on the premise that the local justice system is already acting on it.

But for the international court, efforts, initiatives and proceedings from Manila did not "amount to tangible, concrete and progressive investigative steps in a way that would sufficiently mirror the Court’s investigation." Because of this, the investigation was reopened.

When warranted, the ICC investigates and tries individuals charged with the "gravest crimes of concern to the international community," namely genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression. It asserts that it is a "last resort" and does not seek to replace local courts but merely complements it.

While drug war and alleged EJK deaths reached thousands, the ICC noted that Manila's Department of Justice Panel have only reviewed 302 cases which was "very low."

Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra earlier said that it would appeal the ICC's decision, while Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla condemned the move, saying that it's an affront to the country's sovereignty now that it is a non-party to the ICC.

While the effectivity of the Philippine's withdrawal from the Rome Statue — the treaty creating the ICC — took effect in March 2019, the international court says that it still has jurisdiction over violations that occurred in the country while it was still a state party.

Duterte, through his former spokesperson, reiterated that he will never cooperate with the investigations and would only answer to local courts.


The Department of Justice (DOJ) stood firm yesterday that International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutors are welcome here in the Philippines if they intend to conduct an investigation on the drug war campaign of former president Rodrigo Duterte, but it stressed that nobody will be put under their jurisdiction. 

DOJ spokesman Mico Clavano told reporters in a forum yesterday that the ICC has no jurisdiction over anybody in the Philippines as he emphasized that the country is a sovereign state that has a working justice system for its people.

Clavano added that the Philippine government will cooperate with the ICC investigation, not because it has jurisdiction over the country, but out of respect to the process that they conducted as far as investigation on Duterte’s drug war is concerned.

“It’s too early to make an assumption. The DOJ will always go where the evidence takes us. So, that’s always been the stand of the department: whatever is presented to us, that is where we’ll go,” Clavano said when asked if the government would submit Duterte and Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa to the ICC’s probe.

The campaign against illegal drugs was one of the primary projects of the Duterte administration, supervised during the time of Dela Rosa as the former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief before he got elected to the Senate.

Clavano said that the ICC should respect the sovereignty of the Philippines as he stood firm that the investigation and prosecution should be held in the Philippines.

“We don’t want to name names [but] nobody will be put under the jurisdiction of the ICC. Kung ‘yung bansa nga mismo hindi ilalagay sa jurisdiction ng ICC, individual pa na tao mas lalong hindi ibibigay sa ICC. We want to protect our process, we want to protect our government, and we want to protect our countrymen,” he added.

The ICC has granted its chief prosecutor’s request to proceed with its own probe on the bloody drug war campaign of Duterte, dissatisfied by the findings of the Philippine government on the issue.

DOJ Sec. Jesus Crispin Remulla said that he felt insulted and offended by the apparent insistence of the ICC to look into the drug war campaign of the former administration as he emphasized that the international court’s move is not welcome here in the Philippines.

Remulla added that the ICC prosecutors are also not welcome into the country.

Clavano explained that Remulla’s statement was borne out of disappointment over the ICC’s decision to proceed with the investigation, but said the ICC prosecutors are welcome here in the Philippines as he emphasized that no efforts from the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to stop their entry into the country.

“No, we’re open to dialogue with them,” Clavano said when asked if there are efforts from the BI, which is an attached agency of the DOJ, to stop ICC prosecutors from entering the Philippines supposedly to conduct an investigation on the drug war campaign.

“There is no hostility between us and the international community and we don’t want to do anything that may indicate that. It’s just that, this decision by the ICC is, it pierces through our sovereignty and we don’t want that,” he added.

He also noted that the Philippine government does not want the ICC to dictate the country’s justice system and to dictate the government of what it can and cannot do, and what it should and should not do as far as the drug war issues are concerned. 

“It’s not for them to say because they are miles and miles away and the people who should know best are the government officials here in the Philippines who are involved in the investigation,” Clavano said.

For his part, Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo said that he does not want to meddle in the ICC issues as he emphasized that it is a legal issue that could be raised in court, and that he does not want to preempt the court rules. – JMD (FREEMAN)


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