January 24, 2024
MANILA – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Tuesday said the government would not lift a finger to aid probers of the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigating the bloody war on drugs during the previous Duterte administration as the tribunal’s action is a threat to the country’s sovereignty.
“Let me say this for the 100th time. I do not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC in the Philippines. I consider it as a threat to our sovereignty, therefore, the Philippine government will not lift a finger to help any investigation that the ICC conducts,” the President pointed out.
He made the remarks after Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, a principal player in the antinarcotics war being probed by the ICC, called on Malacañang to be upfront about the reported arrival of the ICC investigators here.
Dela Rosa, who headed the Philippine National Police during the term of then-President Rodrigo Duterte, oversaw the war on illegal drugs that saw thousands of lives lost in alleged extrajudicial killings.
Reacting to reports that ICC investigators were already in town, Marcos reiterated that the government would not help them at all.
“We do not recognize your jurisdiction. Therefore we will not assist in any way, shape or form, any of the investigations that the ICC is doing here in the Philippines,” he said in a talk with reporters in Quezon City.
The president said the ICC probers could come and visit the country as “ordinary people” but they would be strictly watched by the government.
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“We are monitoring them and making sure that they do not come into contact with any agency of the government. And if they are contacting agencies of the government, may it be the police or local government, our directive is not to answer them,” the president noted.
No official request
Since last year, Marcos had maintained that his administration would not cooperate with the ICC in any of its investigations after the ICC decided in January 2023 to allow the reopening of an inquiry into the bloody war on illegal drugs and denied the Philippines’ appeal against resuming the probe.
During the weekend, former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, a critic of the tough-talking Duterte, claimed that the former president and ex-Davao City mayor would be ordered arrested within the first half of 2024.
Trillanes claimed to have received information that ICC probers arrived in the country last December and already conducted their initial investigation.
“For the primary respondents of the case, I believe they already have what they need. What we are waiting for right now is the warrant of arrest, which may come very, very soon,” Trillanes said.
However, the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday said that it had yet to receive any official communication or confirmation on the presence of investigators from the ICC in the Philippines.
“Specifically, the DOJ has not received any advisory from the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) that the ICC has indeed entered the Philippines, a requirement that would trigger the interdepartmental coordination concerning developments that go to the very core of our sovereignty and the primacy of our Constitution and our laws,” the DOJ said in a statement.
It reiterated its earlier position that having withdrawn from the ICC in 2018, “the Philippines has no legal duty to comply with any obligations or proceedings thereunder.”
Legal, political mistake
According to the DOJ, any presence of international bodies such as the ICC within the Philippines must follow the Constitution and relevant laws.
Specifically, it said prior consent and approval from concerned agencies such as the DFA, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, and the DOJ must be secured before the foreign entities could conduct official operations within the country.
The DOJ acknowledged the 2021 ruling of the Supreme Court that Duterte could not invoke the withdrawal from the Rome Statute to evade the investigation of the ICC on the alleged crimes against humanity he committed when the Philippines was still a member of the international body.
However, the DOJ pointed out that the ruling was a “mere obiter dictum or the court’s incidental expression of opinion not essential to the decision and not establishing precedent.”
“As a sovereign nation with a robust and functional justice system capable of addressing internal issues without external interference, the Philippine government has shown that it is ready, willing, and able to investigate and prosecute any crime committed within its territory,” the DOJ noted.
In a statement on Tuesday, human rights lawyer Kristina Conti, who is also a counsel of the families of drug war victims, said that it was “both a legal and political mistake” for President Marcos to snub the investigation of the ICC.
Marcos “should think hard over how history will judge his obstinate refusal to bring justice to the victims of the war on drugs,” she added.
Conti noted that the inquiry of the Hague-based court has a “strong legal basis” and that the country’s “resort to an international court to obtain justice is grounded on law and practical reason.”