President Rodrigo R. Duterte and Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo (Presidential Photo)
MANILA – The plan of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to assess the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs is an insult to the Philippines’ legal system and an infringement on the country’s sovereignty, Palace Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
Panelo, also chief presidential legal counsel, said the ICC has once again “exhibited its partiality” when the office of ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda publicly announced it would continue the process of validating complaints by groups, including families of persons killed in legitimate anti-drug police operations.
“The ICC has once again exhibited its partiality when it publicly pronounced that it will continue to assess the alleged crimes against humanity committed in the country. We are not surprised,” Panelo said in a statement released Thursday night.
He said the statements being issued by ICC and even some United Nations officials “tend to embarrass” the Philippines and create an impression to the world that the government is already guilty of the crimes as alleged by the complainants.
“The Palace thus considers any implication that the ICC has basis to act upon the situation of the country as an affront to the capability of our courts to act independently, an insult to the Philippine legal system and an infringement upon our very sovereignty,” Panelo said.
Panelo said the ICC is free to proceed with its undertakings but reiterated the government’s stand that the Philippines “never became a State Party to the Rome Statute which created the ICC”.
“Thus, we will treat this tribunal as nonexistent and its actions a futile exercise,” the Palace official said.
Duterte issued a statement in March this year, saying the Rome Statute never took effect in the Philippines due to its non-publication in the country’s official gazette.
“This omission violates not only Article 2 of the Civil Code, but more notably, Article III, Sections 1 and 7 of the 1987 Constitution which respectively guarantee the rights of the people to due process and to be informed on matters of national concern,” he explained.
He said treaties, like the Rome Statute, cannot supplant the country’s Constitution.
He explained that Duterte’s statement was also a gesture of courtesy that the Philippines “will no longer participate in the affairs of the ICC in whatever form”.
“We, therefore, treat any provision found in the Rome Statute, including the existence of the ICC, as ineffective in our jurisdiction,” he said.
Panelo reiterated that the ICC, assuming for the sake of argument that the country is a State Party to the Rome Statute, still cannot conduct investigation since the Philippines has a “robust” judicial system.
“Aside from the fact that all these crimes are already covered under our domestic penal laws, it cannot be denied that the Philippines has a robust judicial system which soundly operates,” he said.
He said the conviction by the Caloocan court of three policemen for the killing of Kian delos Santos in an anti-drug police operation “is plain proof” that the Philippines is able and willing to investigate and prosecute its own offenders for the crimes referred to in the Rome Statute.
“With this, the ICC does not have any basis at all to advance its activities regardless of whether it is still in the preliminary examination phase,” Panelo said.
“Only when a preliminary investigation has commenced prior to the effective date of the withdrawal (assuming the ICC has jurisdiction and the Philippines made a withdrawal pursuant to the Rome Statute) that the ICC can continue with the case initiated”.
Panelo added that what the ICC is conducting now, through the Office of the Prosecutor, “is only a preliminary examination.”
“Hence, the ICC is violating the Rome Statute in continuing its activity,” Panelo said.
“On the other hand, hastily proceeding to the preliminary investigation and bringing the case to the Court before the withdrawal becomes effective will certainly result to a biased appreciation of facts by the ICC,” he added. (PNA)