THE International Criminal Court (ICC) has given clearance to proceed with the investigation of President Duterte in connection with the killings in Davao when he was mayor, and those in the “war on drugs” in his first three years as chief executive.
However, Malacanang Palace described the move, announced late Wednesday night, as politically motivated. The Palace’s top lawyer added that the Rome Statute did not meet Philippine constitutional requirements, and thus had no effect on local jurisdiction.
In a statement on Thursday, Chief Presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo questioned the timing of the ICC decision, which he said was conveniently issued before the 2022 elections.
The ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber I made the announcement last Wednesday in response to the request for authorization from ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda last June.
“It also reveals that the ICC is being utilized as a political and propaganda apparatus by those usual suspects who will do anything to dethrone the President from his seat,” Panelo said.
“While we expect that more theatrics will be employed by the detractors of the President as election season draws near, this blatant and brazen interference and assault on our sovereignty as an independent country by the ICC is condemnable,” he added.
Duterte earlier announced he will for vice president in the 2022 polls under the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
Panelo maintained the ICC no longer has any jurisdiction on local cases related to the alleged drug-related killings after the country’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute took effect in March of 2019.
He noted that the “Rome Statute, being penal in nature,” did not comply with the “publication requirement” required by the Philippine Constitution for it to be applied in the country.
“It is as if the said instrument never took effect in the country,” Panelo said.
The ICC’s interference with domestic affairs of some countries, Panelo said, explains why leading and powerful countries have either not joined it or have withdrawn their ICC membership.
The ICC probe will cover the alleged crimes against humanity committed by the Philippine government from July 1, 2016 to March 16, 2019 in its campaign against illegal drugs.
Also to be investigated are the killings in Davao, from November 1, 2011 to June 30, 2016, when Duterte was still the mayor of Davao City.
Government data showed around 7,000 people were killed in its anti-illegal drug initiatives, but human rights groups say it could be as high as 12,000 to 30,000.
Duterte said on multiple occasions he will not cooperate with the ICC investigation, especially insisting that local courts have jurisdiction over the cases.
This position prompted the government to withdraw from the Rome treaty in 2019.
However, no less than the Supreme Court said last July that the ICC can investigate the reported drug-related killings in the country even after the said withdrawal.
In giving the clearance to pave the way for an investigation as sought by the ICC prosecutor, the ICC’s Pre-trial Unit 1 had made it clear that the investigation it approved is still possible as long as it covers acts committed before the Philippines withdrew its ICC membership. Meaning, for as long as it remained member, those acts committed in that period fell under ICC jurisdiction.