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

Marje Pelayo   •   June 15, 2021   •   330

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.

Palace: Duterte to join 13th Asia-Europe Meeting Summit on Nov. 25-26

Robie de Guzman   •   November 24, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is set to join the 13th Asia-Europe Meeting Summit (ASEM) scheduled this week, Malacañang said Wednesday.

The summit will be held on November 25 to 26 via video conference, which would be hosted by Cambodia.

The Palace said Duterte is expected to exchange views on multilateralism, growth and sustainable development during the meeting.

He is also scheduled to speak on rebuilding a resilient future, as well as on international and regional issues at the Second Plenary and Retreat Sessions of the Summit on November 26, it added.

This year’s summit has its theme, “Strengthening Multilateralism for Shared Growth”.

ASEM, an informal dialogue process involving 53 partners from Europe, Asia, the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretariat, aims to strengthen cooperation between the two regions in the spirit of mutual respect and equal partnership.

The Philippines joined ASEM in 1996 as one of its founding members.

 

Philippines yet to receive formal request from ICC for proof of probe into drug war deaths – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   November 24, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has yet to receive a formal request from the International Criminal Court (ICC) to provide concrete information that it is conducting investigations into allegations involving the government’s campaign against illegal drugs, Malacañang said Wednesday.

Acting Presidential Spokesperson Karlo Nograles issued the statement following reports that ICC Prosecutor Khan will ask the Philippine government to provide substantiating information regarding its probe into allegations of crime committed under its war against drugs.

“We would like to clarify that we have yet to receive a formal request with regard to this matter. That being said, we reiterate our position that the ICC has no jurisdiction to probe our campaign against illegal drugs,” Nograles said.

“Clearly, the ICC prosecutor’s request for information is an acknowledgment that alleged victims can seek redress in Philippine legal institutions because these are independent, impartial, and competent,” he added.

Moreover, Nograles said that the ICC prosecutor’s statement “validates our earlier position that the ICC is the court of last resort, one that can be utilized when a State Party is unwilling to investigate and prosecute those who violate its laws.”

“This is simply not the case in the Philippines. Our criminal justice system continues to be capable and functional, and a case in point is the signing of the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation of an agreement to conduct cooperative investigations,” he said.

Nograles stressed that this serves as “evidence that a culture of impunity does not exist in our country as local institutions have demonstrated their commitment to accountability.”

Khan, in a statement posted on Tuesday, said the Duterte administration must submit concrete proof that its is investigating allegations involving its war on drugs after the ICC deferred its probe upon the request of the Philippine government.

The ICC deferred the probe after the government said that investigations on reported deaths during anti-drug operations are underway.

“Such information must consist of tangible evidence, of probative value and a sufficient degree of specificity, demonstrating that concrete and progressive investigative steps have been or are currently being undertaken,” the statement read.

Philippine Ambassador to the Netherlands Eduardo Malaya wrote Khan that the country’s Department of Justice (DOJ) has already referred to the National Bureau of Investigation the 52 cases it reviewed, where administrative liability was found on the part of concerned law enforcers.

Members of the National Union of People’s Lawyers and the Free Legal Assistance Group have called on the ICC to resume its probe, saying the DOJ is only looking at several cases out of tens of thousands of killings allegedly linked to the drug war.

Sara Duterte takes drug test

Robie de Guzman   •   November 24, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte on Wednesday said she underwent a drug test and her results yielded negative for narcotics.

In a statement, the vice presidential bet said she took the test upon the request of her running mate, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

“Today, I took a drug test that yielded negative of any illegal substances. This test, I took voluntarily upon the request of my Uniteam partner, Senator Bongbong Marcos, to support the call for transparency as aspiring public officials seeking the trust of our fellow Filipinos,” she said.

Sara shared the results of her drug test, which showed that she was negative for several illegal substances.

On Tuesday, Marcos announced that he took a cocaine test and submitted the result to law enforcement agencies.

This was after President Rodrigo Duterte’s claim that a presidential aspirant is using cocaine.

Duterte did not give any name.

“Uniteam BBM-Sara’s stand against illegal drugs is united and unequivocal. This can be seen from both our negative tests as well as our common stance against the proliferation of illegal drugs and the need for effective measures of prevention, rehabilitation, and enforcement,” Mayor Sara said.

She also stressed “as important as the war against illegal drugs is, other compelling issues continue to challenge our country’s ability to provide long-term safety and security for our people.”

“Therefore, it is crucial in this electoral season that we focus on the substantial qualifications of those that seek to lead our country,” she said.

“Particularly, that we examine our presidential and vice presidential candidates under the lens of competence and experience – an infallible ability to manage crisis through policy and practice built up through years of executive, legislative, and administrative exposure; a proven track record of delivering security and development; and a clear and tested platform for job security and sustainable livelihood,” she added.

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