MANILA – The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Wednesday said the International Criminal Court (ICC) needs to show “pieces of evidence” to support its claims that the government has committed human rights and crimes against humanity in the conduct of its anti-illegal drugs campaign.
“Kailangan naman po siguro na makita ho ano ba ‘yung mga pieces of evidence na nagsasabi na may (Perhaps, pieces of evidence must be presented to show that there is) violation of human rights,” PNP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana said in a radio DZBB interview.
Usana made the comment after ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said her office allegedly found “reasonable basis” to believe that crimes against humanity were committed in the crackdown on illegal drugs under the Duterte administration.
The PNP official refused to give further comment, saying Malacañang already issued official position of the Philippine government regarding the ICC report.
“Nagbigay na po ang Palasyo ng reaksyon as (The palace already gave reactions) regards the ICC report. We give it to Malacañang… In so far as the official position of the government, hindi po nire-recognize ang ICC report (is not recognized),” Usana said.
On Tuesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the ICC judges will eventually decide against opening a preliminary investigation into the Duterte administration’s anti-illegal drugs campaign.
Roque said he was confident that the ICC will apply the April 2019 decision of its pre-trial chamber that prevented the prosecutor from investigating allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan, which cited, among others, the lack of cooperation from parties and the need for the Court to use its resources prioritizing activities that would have better chances to succeed.
In her report, Bensouda said her office will decide on whether to seek authorization to open an investigation into the situation in the country in the first half of 2021.
Roque also described as “legally erroneous” Bensouda’s report that there is “reasonable basis to believe that the crimes against humanity of murder and the infliction of serious physical injury and mental harm as other inhumane were committed on the territory of the Philippines between at least 1 July 2016 and 16 March 2019, in connection to the [war on drugs] campaign launched throughout the country.”
“Obviously, we do not agree with her. It’s legally erroneous dahil mayroon po tayong minimum gravity na required. Hindi po lahat ng krimen ay nililitis sa ICC. Pero gaya ng aking sinabi, eh mayroon na pong desisyon ang ICC, na hindi sasayangin ng ICC ang panahon ng kanyang mga opisyales sa mga kaso na hindi naman po uusad dahil walang kooperasyon (because we have the minimum gravity required. Not all crimes are tried at the ICC. But as I said, the ICC has already made a decision, that the ICC will not waste the time of its officers in cases that will not progress because there is no cooperation),” he said in a Palace briefing on Tuesday.
Roque cited principle of complementarity in which the ICC can only investigate crimes against humanity if local courts are unable or unwilling to do so.
President Rodrigo Duterte himself has repeatedly said the ICC has no jurisdiction over him since the Rome Statute was never published in a newspaper of general circulation or on the Official Gazette. The Rome Statute is a treaty that created the international court on Nov. 1, 2011.
The Duterte administration’s drug war has been under preliminary examination of the Office of the Prosecutor since February 2018.
Manila cut ties with the ICC after Bensouda in February 2018 pushed through with the preliminary examination of the communication filed by lawyer Jude Sabio before the international tribunal.
Sabio’s communication accused Duterte of perpetrating crimes against humanity for thousands of alleged extrajudicial killings of drug suspects since the anti-narcotics drive was launched on July 1, 2016 until March 31, 2017, but he eventually dropped the communication he filed before the international tribunal.
In June, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra announced the creation of an inter-agency panel that will reinvestigate the drug-related killings. (PNA)