Duterte gov’t finds ICC prosecutor’s call to probe Philippines’ war on drugs ‘regrettable’

Marje Pelayo   •   June 15, 2021   •   175

MANILA, Philippines — The outgoing prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Fatou Bensouda has sought permission to open a full investigation into the Philippines’ drug war under President Rodrigo Duterte.

The official argued that there is a basis to believe the government’s war on drugs has committed ‘the crime against humanity of murder’ which she claimed had killed thousands of people, including innocent children.

Just in time for her last day in office as ICC prosecutor on Tuesday (June 15), Bensouda argued “that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the Crime Against Humanity of murder was committed” in the Philippines between July 1, 2016 and March 16, 2019, based on a that a preliminary probe that began in February 2018.

That same period was when Duterte ordered the withdrawal of the Philippines from the ICC.

In response, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Tuesday issued a statement saying that the Philippine government finds Bensouda’s announcement “regrettable”.

The statement underscored that the Inter-Agency Review Panel headed by the Secretary of Justice is still conducting reinvestigation on cases involving fatalities in the campaign against illegal drugs, and that the Panel should be allowed to finish such work.

“The International Criminal Court is a court of last resort. The States Parties to the Rome Statute envisioned a court with a complementary, not primary, jurisdiction for the prosecution of the persons most responsible for the most serious crimes of international concern,” the statement added.

“The Rome Statute requires the Court and the Office of the Prosecutor to respect and defer to the primary criminal jurisdiction of the concerned State Party, while proceedings are ongoing in the latter. The precipitate move of the Prosecutor is a blatant violation of the principle of complementarity, which is a bedrock principle of the Rome Statute,” it further said.

The department also said enumerated what it called concrete and progressive steps the Deterte administration has taken to address concerns in the conduct of the anti-illegal drugs campaign. It added that the government has recently finalized with the UN a Joint Program on Human Rights.

All these, the department said, “affirm the Philippines’ adherence to human rights norms and its long track record of constructive engagement with international and regional partners in human rights promotion and protection.”

“The midnight announcement by the current Prosecutor on the eve of her end of term also preempts the prerogative of her successor to make a full evaluation of the cases that he will prosecute. By her act, the outgoing Prosecutor likewise undercuts the attractiveness of the Rome Statute to States that may be considering accession,” the DFA said.

Duterte thanks outgoing British envoy Pruce for help in accessing more COVID-19 vax shots

Robie de Guzman   •   August 5, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte thanked outgoing British Ambassador to the Philippines Daniel Pruce for his role in improving the Philippines’ access to COVID-19 vaccines.

Duterte expressed his gratitude when Pruce made his farewell call in Malacañang on Wednesday (August 4).

In a statement issued by the Palace, Duterte thanked the United Kingdom for donating 415,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to the Philippines’ vaccination drive.

“President Duterte cited Ambassador Pruce’s personal role in improving vaccine access for the Philippines eventually leading to the conclusion of the innovative Tripartite Agreement between the government of the Philippines (GPH), local government units (LGU), and private sector for the procurement of AstraZeneca vaccines,” the statement read.

Duterte also congratulated Pruce for a successful tour of duty, crediting him for the “revitalization of the United Kingdom’s economic and political presence in the Philippines through high-level exchanges and dialogues.”

Meanwhile, the president called for the finalization of the Memorandum of Understanding on the Recruitment of Filipino healthcare professionals to ensure fair, ethical, and sustainable recruitment and employment of Filipino healthcare workers in the United Kingdom.

“President Duterte also reiterated the Philippines’ support for the UK’s Presidency of COP26 in 2021, recognizing the UK’s bold commitments as it steers the global climate agenda towards urgent climate action,” the Palace said.

Pruce, for his part, thanked Duterte for the Philippines’ support of the UK’s dialogue partnership with ASEAN, and in its efforts to further strengthen bilateral ties across a broad range of areas, including political and defense cooperation, trade and investments, people-to-people exchanges, and fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

He also stressed the importance placed by the UK on its relations with the Philippines and further underscored that the Philippines-UK diplomatic cooperation will continue to grow.

Duterte recalls order to terminate VFA with US – Lorenzana

Robie de Guzman   •   July 30, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the retraction of the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States, the Department of National Defense (DND) said Friday.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana made the announcement after Duterte met with visiting US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III in Malacañang on Thursday.

“The President decided to recall or retract the termination letter for the VFA,” Lorenzana said during a press briefing with Austin.

The VFA came into force in 1999. It outlines the guidelines about the treatment of their troops when visiting the US or the Philippines.

The pact also includes provisions on visa and passport policies for US troops and the American government’s right to retain jurisdiction over its personnel, among others.

Duterte last year ordered the abrogation of the VFA, which is anchored in the PH-US 1951 defense treaty.

The termination of the pact, however, was suspended citing the coronavirus pandemic and the relevant developments in the region.

Austin, for his part, welcomed Duterte’s decision to “fully restore the VFA.”

“A strong, resilient US-Philippine alliance will remain vital to the security, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific. A fully restored VFA will help up achieve that goals together,” Austin said.

In a separate statement, Malacañang said the Philippines and the United States made a renewed commitment to strengthen their partnership in various areas of mutual interest.

The Palace said Duterte and Austin had “an open and frank discussion” on the status and future direction of Philippines-US engagement during a 75-minute courtesy call of the US defense secretary on the President.

“They agreed that the alliance can be further strengthened through enhanced communication and greater cooperation, particularly in the areas of pandemic response, combating transnational crimes, including the war on illegal drugs, maritime domain awareness, the rule of law, and trade and investments,” the statement read.

US Defense chief Austin is on an official visit to Southeast Asia that includes stops in Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines. The visit aims to bolster the US’ ties with the said nations.

His visit coincides with the commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations of the US and the Philippines and the 70th Anniversary of the Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty this year.

US Defense chief Austin to meet with Duterte on July 29 – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   July 29, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte is set to meet with United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III at Malacañang on Thursday, July 29.

In a statement, the Palace said Austin will pay a courtesy call on Duterte upon his arrival in the Philippines.

Austin is on an official visit to Southeast Asia that includes stops in Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The visit aims to bolster the US’ ties with the said nations.

He will stay in Manila until Friday.

The US Defense chief’s visit highlights the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and the United States and the 70th anniversary of the signing of the PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty, the Palace said.

Executive Secretary Salvador Mediadea, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr., Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez, and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert Borje are expected to attend the courtesy call, it added.

REACH US

The Philippine Broadcast Hub

UNTV, 915 Barangay Philam,

EDSA, Quezon City M.M. 1104

(+632) 8396-8688 (Tel)

info@untv-newsandrescue.com (General inquiries)

ABOUT UNTV

UNTV is a major TV broadcast network with 24-hour programming. An Ultra High Frequency station with strong brand content that appeal to everyone, UNTV is one of the most trusted and successful Philippine networks that guarantees wholesome and quality viewing experience.