MANILA – Malacañang on Wednesday accused a prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) of “playing politics” after releasing a report which allegedly found “reasonable basis” to believe that crimes against humanity were committed in the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs.
In an interview over dzBB, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque cited how ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, a former Gambian justice minister, has been criticized for targeting African countries in her inquiries.
“Alam ninyo sa totoo lang po, talagang namumulitika lang itong si Bensouda kasi ang pula sa kaniya eh ang talagang pinupuruhan niya ay ang mga Afrikano ‘no, iyong mga kapuwa Afrikano niya, so gumawa siya ng paraan para masabi, ‘Oh, mayroon naman akong ibang pinuruhan (You know the truth is, Bensouda is really just politicking because she used to investigate her fellow Africans, so she made a way to say, ‘Oh, I’m investigating another country)’,” he said.
Roque also pointed out that besides the Philippines, powerful countries like the US, Russia, and China are not state parties to the Rome Statute, a treaty that created the international court on Nov. 1, 2011 and that the ICC could not open a preliminary investigation into countries that refuse to cooperate.
“Kahit anong mangyari ay hindi kami makikipagtulungan, hindi kami makikipag-cooperate. At ang sabi po ng ICC mismo, eh bakit ka pa maglilitis sa isang kasong hindi mo naman talagang mapapanalo dahil ayaw mag-cooperate ng estado na involved ‘no (So whatever happens, we will not help, we will not cooperate. And the ICC itself said, why will we push through with a trial in cases that we cannot win because the country involved does not cooperate),” he said.
Roque said the Duterte administration would not allow Bensouda to use the Philippines as an “instrument” to her politicking.
“Wala po tayong obligasyong makipag-cooperate sa ICC, dahil hindi na po tayo miyembro ng ICC (We have no obligation to cooperate because we’re no longer a member of the ICC),” he said.
Should the ICC prosecutor pursue preliminary investigation, Roque said it would be considered interfering with Philippine sovereignty.
Duterte, he said, would simply ignore Bensouda’s efforts to pursue an investigation into drug-related killing in the country.
“Dedma lang po ang Presidente. Bahala siya kung ano ang gusto niyang gawin. Anyway, baka makinabang ang kaniyang buhay pulitika doon sa kaniyang bayan sa Africa ‘no. Pero wala pong epekto kay Presidente (The President is ignoring it. She’s free to do what she wants. Anyway, she might benefit from Africa. But it has no effect to the President),” he said.
Roque reiterated that the drug war should not be considered as “crimes against humanity” because it is considered a “legitimate police action” and state forces have no intention to kill civilians.
“Wala pong bansa sa buong daigdig, kasama ang United Nations, na nagsasabi na mali ang war on drugs. Lahat nga sila hinihikayat na magkaroon ng war on drug, dahil kinakailangan matigil na iyang problema natin sa droga ‘no (There’s no country in the world, including the United Nations, that’s saying that the war on drugs is wrong. They’re all encouraging a war on drugs because there is a need to eliminate this drug problem,” he said.
He said the ICC prosecutor should just drop plans to open a preliminary investigation as pursuing it would be a waste of time and money.
“Hindi na po mabubura iyong ganiyang ruling na kapag hindi po handang makipagtulungan o makipag-cooperate ang estado kung saan naruroon ang nasasakdal ay huwag na dapat ituloy dahil ito po’y pagsasayang lang ng pera, salapi at ng oras ng (That ruling will not be erased that when a country being investigated refuses to help or cooperate, they should not push through because it will be a waste of time and money of the) International Criminal Court,” he said.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, for his part, echoed Roque’s statement, saying that Bensouda was seemingly after destroying Duterte’s reputation.
“With no authority to proceed, it becomes clearly evident that what Ms. Bensouda and her office are doing is playing politics in an attempt to besmirch the reputation and popularity President Duterte — akin to the practices of other lowly vulnerable and biased international rights groups which accept unthinkingly and without basis the lies peddled by the dyed in the wool opposition detractors,” he said in a separate statement.
Panelo described as “political propaganda” Bensouda’s report on the administration’s crackdown on the illegal narcotics trade.
He said that since Bensouda’s office has yet to reach a decision on whether to open a preliminary investigation, it means that “no conclusive decision has been made if they are to proceed with an investigation.”
“Celebratory statements therefore coming the enemies of the administration [are] premature and amusing,” he said.
Like Roque, Panelo said the government does not sponsor any unlawful act that may result in any killing or violent activity, nor does it allow any widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population.
He said the country’ administrative authorities are able and willing to prosecute, as they have prosecuted any alleged crime against humanity in their jurisdiction. This means that the judicial system is “robust enough” to conduct criminal proceedings brought before the courts of justice.
Panelo, meanwhile, reminded Bensouda and other ICC officials to observe their complementarity principle, in line with the principle of state sovereignty.
He also urged the public not to hesitate to file complaints against abusive practices violative of human rights, assuring that the administration will address these crimes.
“The Republic of the Philippines shall continue to claim its independence and call out all persons or entities that seek to destroy its exclusive supremacy over its affairs to refrain from doing so for they shall be repelled at every stage pursuant to — and in accordance with our Constitution,” he said.
The Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs has been under preliminary examination of the Office of the Prosecutor since February 2018.
Around the same time, the Philippines withdrew from the ICC after Bensouda 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. (PNA)