By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos
MANILA – The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Saturday told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that the Philippines will carry out its own investigation into the deaths associated with the anti-illegal drugs campaign waged by former president Rodrigo Duterte.
During the Saturday News Forum held at Dapo Restaurant and Bar in Quezon City, DOJ spokesperson Mico Clavano said ICC prosecutor Karim Khan must respect the Philippines’ sovereignty and judicial systems.
“We want to express to ICC and to the special prosecutor, Mr. Khan, just to give us time to conduct our own investigation,” Clavano said, ensuring that the Philippine government is conducting a “genuine” investigation into drug-related killings in the country.
He said the DOJ opposes the ICC’s decision to resume its investigation, considering that the country has a “working” and “organized” justice system compared to some African nations that the international court had investigated.
“These are countries na wala talagang justice system, wala talagang gobyerno (that have no justice system and no functioning government). It’s under chaos. If we accept the decision of the ICC, it is as if we are admitting na (that) we are on the same level as those countries na wala talagang gobyerno (without functioning government),” Clavano said.
“We are going to conduct a full-blown investigation on the past administration’s war on drugs. It’s not fast. Hindi siya mabilisan (It could not be done immediately). We have to collect the right evidence. We have to obtain the witnesses in these cases. And we have to properly screen all the facts of the cases. So, it takes time. Hindi naman agad-agad makukuha ang (You cannot give immediate) conviction but that is the goal,” he added.
In November 2021, the ICC suspended its investigation into the alleged crimes against humanity attributed to Duterte’s drug campaign to assess “the scope and effect of the deferral request” of the Philippine government.
On Thursday, the Pre-Trial Chamber (PTC) announced its decision to approve Khan’s request to continue its probe into “the Situation of the Republic of the Philippines.”
In a statement, the PTC said it is “not satisfied” that the Philippines is conducting relevant investigations “that would warrant a deferral of the Court’s investigations on the basis of the complementarity principle.”
On Friday, Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra said the Philippines will elevate the case to the ICC Appeals Chamber, emphasizing that the country’s domestic investigative and judicial processes should take precedence.
DOJ Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said the ICC’s “unreasonable” decision is not welcome in the Philippines and the DOJ is opposed to “any of these antics that tend to question our sovereignty and our status as a sovereign country.”
While the Philippines is no longer under the ICC’s jurisdiction, the government is making an appeal to the international court “out of respect and cooperation,” Clavano said.
“On one hand, the reason why we have to resist their coming in to the country and substituting our judgment to theirs is because we have to protect our sovereignty,” he said.
Clavano said the government is also performing a “balancing act” in line with President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s commitment to maintain good relations with the international community.
“We are doing this not because we are obliged to but because we respect the processes that they have in the ICC, in the United Nations. We also want to be a participant in the international community,” he said. “Sinasabi nila, hindi natin ginagawa ang investigation. Sinasabi natin, ginagawa natin (They are saying we are not conducting an investigation. We are saying otherwise). So, it becomes a balancing act now.”
Clavano said the Marcos administration will make sure that those responsible for the alleged unlawful killings will be brought to justice.
“We will show that we have nothing to hide through our local processes, through our local judicial system. Wala naman tayong pino-protektahan dito (We are not protecting anyone here),” he said. “We will not forget our responsibility and our mandate to provide justice to the victims of war on drugs,” he said
In March 2018, Duterte ordered the Philippines’ revocation of the Rome Statute that created the ICC after former prosecutor Fatou Bensouda continued with the preliminary examination.
The Philippines formally ended its ties with the ICC on March 17, 2019, or exactly a year after the scrapping of the Rome Statute.
Despite the Philippines’ withdrawal, Khan said the ICC retains jurisdiction with respect to alleged crimes that happened in the country while it was a state party from Nov. 1, 2011 to March 16, 2019.
The ICC’s investigation covers the conduct of the campaign under Duterte’s watch, as well as alleged killings in Davao City between 2011 and 2016 when the former president was still the mayor. (PNA)