By Wilnard Bacelonia

The International Criminal Court (Screenshot from ICC FB Page)

MANILA – Senator Francis Tolentino, chair of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights, on Tuesday evening again questioned the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the Philippines.

This was after the ICC decided to push through its investigation into the killings and human rights abuses allegedly linked to former President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs.”

“Once again, the denial of the appeal does not grant the ICC the jurisdiction which it lacks from the very beginning,” Tolentino said in his statement.

“Any misguided claims suggesting otherwise would only highlight ICC’s persistent disregard for Philippine sovereignty. It is important to note that a foreign entity has no authority to investigate the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte,” he added.

The Philippines officially withdrew from the Rome Statute that established the ICC last March 2018 but prosecutors still insist that it still has legal jurisdiction over the drug-related killings which accuses Duterte and former Philippine National Police chief now Senator Ronald dela Rosa.

In a phone interview, dela Rosa shrugged off the ICC decision accepting the fact that he cannot do anything about it.

Hindi na ako na-surprise, hindi ako concerned, hindi ako nababagabag. Alam ko naman talaga na desidido sila na ituloy nila. Eh di iituloy nila yung kanilang imbestigasyon (I am not surprised, concerned, or worried. I know they are determined to push through with it. So, let them continue the investigation),” he told reporters.

However, dela Rosa clarified that ICC should not expect any cooperation from him but assured that he would not hide and would continue his duties as a lawmaker.

In a press conference, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri assured Dela Rosa’s protection from the ICC.

“He will always be accorded the protection of the Senate unless he is proven guilty. Unless there’s an actual warrant of arrest in a local court, we cannot physically give him up, especially during session days,” Zubiri said.

Zubiri expressed confidence the country has a functioning justice system, echoing the Office of the Solicitor General’s position that there is no need for the ICC to investigate the “war on drugs.”

During his interview at Kapihan sa Manila Bay, Senator Mark Villar agreed to Zubiri expressing his support for dela Rosa and others being accused before the ICC which reportedly now includes former Special Assistant to the President Senator Christopher Lawrence Go.

“We support them, that’s clear. The Senate supports Senator Go, Senator Bato and I think it’s clear that this international body should only come in when the government is unable to provide working justice system. In this case, we have a working justice system. We have a working democracy,” Villar said.

“I don’t see the need for international bodies to come in and take over or interfere with our institutions that are already working,” he added citing the fact that the Philippines has one of the most vibrant democracies in the world. (PNA)