Mindanao Times

Initial review by ICC of drug war invalid: Palace


— Malacañang on Saturday dismissed as “utter disrespect” the Internatio­nal Criminal Court’s (ICC) insistence that it has jurisdicti­on to proceed with a preliminar­y examinatio­n of President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-narcotics crackdown, despite the Philippine­s’ withdrawal from the internatio­nal tribunal.

Presidenti­al Spokespers­on Salvador Panelo maintained that the ICC has no jurisdicti­on over the Philippine­s, which he said is an “independen­t” country” that has a working justice system.

“The Philippine­s as an independen­t State, through its duly constitute­d authoritie­s, must not be waylaid by any force, internal or external, in going about its task of serving and protecting the Filipino people,” Panelo said in a statement.

“Any resort therefore to a foreign tribunal relative to the management of our country’s state policies is utter disrespect, and any complainan­t who does it who is a citizen of the Republic, is an infidel to the

sovereign aspiration­s of this Republic,” he added.

He issued the statement after the ICC, in its “preliminar­y examinatio­n activities” report for 2019, noted that it intends to conclude its initial review of Duterte’s drug war by 2020 to determine the possible necessity to conduct a full-blown investigat­ion into the Philippine­s’ campaign against narcotics trade.

The Philippine­s became a party to the Rome Statute, which creates the ICC, on Nov. 1, 2011.

The country, however, officially cut ties with ICC on Mar. 17, 2019, exactly a year after Duterte submitted a formal notice of revocation of its membership from the internatio­nal tribunal due to its “brazen display of ignorance of the law.”

The ICC’s preliminar­y examinatio­n of Duterte’s drug war launched by prosecutor Fatou Bensouda pushed through in February 2018, as it noted that it has jurisdicti­on over the possible crimes perpetrate­d during the period the Philippine­s was a state party to the Rome Statute.

The ICC’s preliminar­y examinatio­n stemmed from a complaint lodged by lawyer Jude Sabio, accusing Duterte of committing crimes against humanity for the thousands of alleged extrajudic­ial killings of drug personalit­ies since the drug war was waged on July 1, 2016 until Mar. 31, 2017.

Panelo said the “false allegation­s of extrajudic­ial killings in the Philippine­s “do not fall within the ICC’s definition of crimes against humanity.”

“This Government does not sanction nor condone any unlawful act resulting in the loss of lives. Neither does it allow any widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population,” he said.

“The deaths occurring in the course of legitimate police operations come about because the criminal suspects subject of these law enforcemen­t activities resort to violence that imperils the lives and limbs of the police officers,” the Palace official added.

Panelo said Bensouda should instead rule that the ICC has “no jurisdicti­on” over the Philippine­s and the internatio­nal body’s preconditi­ons for its exercise of jurisdicti­on “have not been met.”

He also said there was no need for the ICC to intervene, as it has to observe the “principle of complement­arity.”

The principle of complement­arity, as defined by ICC, states that the internatio­nal court may only exercise jurisdicti­on where national legal systems fail to do so, including whether they purport to act but in reality are unwilling or unable to genuinely carry out proceeding­s.

“The admissibil­ity of any case before the ICC must also pass the test of complement­arity, in that the Philippine­s should first be unable or unwilling to prosecute the alleged crimes against humanity in our jurisdicti­on,” Panelo said.

“There is no evidence that this Administra­tion is unable or unwilling to prosecute crimes against humanity. The opposite is true. The government is pursuing vigorously its campaign against all kinds of crimes,” he added.

He also insisted that while the Philippine­s may have been a signatory to the Rome Statute, its membership did not place it under the jurisdicti­on of the ICC.

Panelo also said the creation of ICC did not comply with the publicatio­n requiremen­t to pass the due process test imposed by the 1987 Constituti­on, “especially because the instrument is penal in nature.”

“A contrary interpreta­tion would be antithetic­al to the demands of due process, constituti­onally protected under our Bill of Rights,” he said.

“Hence, the ICC never acquired jurisdicti­on over the Philippine­s, the latter’s membership thereat being void ab initio (invalid from the outset). Necessaril­y, it did not give birth to any legal effect.” (PNA)

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