MANILA – The International Criminal Court (ICC) cannot force the Philippines to cooperate with its planned investigation into President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-narcotics drive, Malacañang said on Thursday.
“Unfortunately, the lack of enforcement mechanism cannot compel the Philippines to cooperate when the President has clearly said we will not do so,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a virtual press briefing.
Roque’s statement came after the Supreme Court (SC), in a ruling dated March 16 but released just on Wednesday, dismissed the petitions challenging the Philippine government’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The SC ruling, penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, junked the petitions for being moot and academic.
The high tribunal, however, said the Philippines’ withdrawal from the ICC “does not discharge a state party from the obligations it has incurred as a member.”
Roque dismissed the SC’s remarks as “obiter dictum”, an opinion that is uttered by a judge but is not binding.
“An obiter [dictum] does not really have jurisprudential value. It is on the side. It is not on the merits. It is not the main ruling of the court, and we are not, of course, in any way concerned about that obiter. That’s the nature of obiters,” he said.
Roque also emphasized there will be “no change” in Duterte’s stance that he would not cooperate with ICC.
“No change because that’s obiter and petition dismissed. So iyon ang importante (that’s what is important),” he said.
Roque added that the focus should be on the government’s victory, now that the SC ruled against the petitioners.
Citing the high court’s ruling, Roque said, “Even sans a judicial determination that a treaty is unconstitutional, the president also enjoys much leeway in withdrawing from an agreement which, in his or her judgment, runs afoul of prior existing law or the Constitution.”
“Ang gusto nila mabalewala iyong withdrawal, hindi po nabalewala (They want to reverse the withdrawal but that did not happen). So, it is dismissed. Panalo po ang gobyerno (The government wins),” he said.
Duterte ordered in March 2018 the Philippines’ withdrawal from the Rome Statute that created the ICC after Fatou Bensouda pushed through with the preliminary examination into his anti-illegal drugs campaign in February 2018.
The Philippines officially cut ties with the ICC on March 17, 2019, or exactly a year after Duterte revoked the Rome Statute.
Bensouda, whose term as ICC prosecutor ended last June 15, has asked the court’s pre-trial chamber to allow the conduct of an investigation into the alleged crime against humanity during the Duterte administration’s anti-illegal drugs campaign.
On its official website, the ICC has called on the families of victims of Duterte’s anti-narcotics campaign to come forward and submit their concerns over the request to proceed with the investigation.
The ICC is asking for details about what happened to the victims, who the victims believe to be responsible, and when and where the incident happened.
The deadline for the submission of victim representations to the ICC is on August 13 this year. (PNA)