Lastimosa case bears on ICC meddling

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

Leo Lastimosa has just had the proverbial thorn removed from his side. The veteran broadcaster and columnist for this newspaper won acquittal at the Supreme Court from a libel case Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia filed against him 16 years ago. Here, I will not be a party to a reopening of old wounds by revisiting details of the case.

Instead, I will try to move on and see what the implications might be, if any, on other things. Almost immediately I see it chip away at the validity of the International Criminal Court's meddling in Philippine affairs. The Lastimosa case throws out the window the notion that justice has broken down in the Philippines, thereby requiring ICC intervention.

Lastimosa, who wrote in his column last Monday that he completely entrusted his case to the system, has been amply rewarded for his trust. His extraordinary patience has borne fruit. He has emerged victorious. He has won justice. His case is a brand new check in the column under a heading that reads: Justice is at work in the Philippines.

Additionally, the Lastimosa case not only underscores the fact that the justice system in the Philippines is alive and kicking, it also proves that freedom, in its various forms, continues to ring loud and true in the country. The triumph of Lastimosa is a check in the column of press freedom and free expression as well.

The ICC cannot press ahead with its meddlesome initiative in the Philippines without having to take into account the Lastimosa case and then take pause and consider if it is not taking its self-righteousness and hypocrisy a bit too far. There is no way it can ignore the case and not look foolish kicking down our door looking for justice and freedom.

While there are still no red faces to go around that can irrevocably undermine its credibility, it would be best for the ICC to drop its witch hunt against former president Rodrigo Duterte. There is a new sitting president with an even bigger mandate than Duterte but who is much more warm and open to the real power behind ICC.

The ICC, in trying to save face and salvage its case in face of the fact that the Philippines has already withdrawn its ICC membership, thus undercutting its authority to proceed, insists it can pursue extrajudicial killing cases committed prior to such withdrawal. If that is so, then it must have to go after the ghost of former president Noynoy Aquino.

For if the ICC is not only pure blah and did some actual research, it would discover that extrajudicial killings did not really start upon the assumption of Duterte in office but in the final two months of the Noynoy Aquino regime. The ICC, if it really wanted to, will not miss the gory details of these killings. They are on file in most media outfits.

Of course, in the final two months of the Noynoy Aquino regime, Duterte was already the president-elect. And Duterte having announced his major policies during the campaign, it may be argued that there were those who were overly zealous and wanted to jump the gun on Duterte even if Aquino was still president, even if already a lame duck by then.

Regardless, it cannot be swept under the rug that when aggressive police action commenced against illegal drugs in anticipation of the new Duterte policy, it was still Noynoy Aquino who was president. So no fair inquiry can be done unless it starts from there. To bypass that short but nonetheless critical period only exposes what ICC is really up to.

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