Palace chides HRW on pullout from ICC

The Palace on Tuesday brushed off suggestions that President Rodrigo Duterte pulled the country out of the International Criminal Court to avoid accountability for any wrongdoing, saying he could still be impeached or face criminal charges after his term ends.

“Those fears are misplaced, if not recklessly advanced, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said of a statement issued earlier by Human Rights Watch. 

“We have a rich history of making presidents and officials accountable in this country.”

Panelo said the Philippines has a robust judicial system.

“Anybody can file any complaint against any incumbent official. Even this President, after he steps down from office, if he indeed violated any provision of law, will be accountable,” Panelo added.

Panelo was responding to Human Rights Watch associate director Param-Preet Singh’s statement that President Rodrigo Duterte’s withdrawal from the ICC in the face of criticism against his anti-drug campaign was a mark of “desperation” to avoid any trace of accountability.

“His bald-faced effort to protect himself from the court’s reach looks more like an act of desperation for a man who appears deeply implicated in alleged crimes against humanity,” she said in a dispatch.

Panelo earlier also disputed claims by an international lawyers group that foreign investors have stayed away from the Philippines because of reports of extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration.

“There is no direct correlation between human rights and the economy, as some quarters particularly two international lawyers groups would like to point out,” Panelo said in a statement.

“The Philippine economy has been growing at least 6 percent under the Duterte administration and according to our economic managers, [that’s] the strongest economic growth we have seen since the mid-1970s,” he added.

The Philippines, he said, had an unprecedented $20.1 billion in net foreign investments in 2017 and 2018 during the first two full years of Duterte’s presidency.

“There has been strong investor confidence in the economy under the decisive leadership of the President,” Panelo said.

In contrast, he said, the previous Aquino administration managed only $2 billion and $3.2 billion in its first two years.

Panelo also cited the President’s passage of Republic Act 11032, or the Ease of Doing Business Act, and said the Philippines jumped 48 notches to 19th place out of 193 countries in the e-Participation Index of the United Nations, underscoring the administration’s moves to streamline business registration.

He also noted that the Build-Build-Build Infrastructure Program was moving forward at “full steam.”

“As we all know, lack of infrastructure hampered the competitiveness of our economy; thus, the administration committed more resources to infrastructure,” Panelo said.

“These are hard facts and figures, which cannot be disputed and which should be relayed by those in capable positions to the public, including those in the international community. They are more reliable than some anecdotes that are politically colored by some groups or interests,” he said.

“The international groups of lawyers claim that our foreign investments have been or will be adversely affected by the issues on human rights and EJKs. It’s further from the truth as shown by the economic growth stated above,” Panelo added.

The Palace official also said foreign investments are anchored on principal considerations such as macro-economic fundamentals, no or minimal restriction on foreign equity in investment areas and activities, ease of doing business, good infrastructure, non-restrictive labor laws, and a consistent policy milieu.

He said the Duterte administration adheres to the rule of law, uphold international humanitarian law, and protects human rights amid its controversial policies.

Earlier, Christopher Leong, president of regional lawyers group LawAsia, said the alleged extrajudicial killings and issues of rule of law in the Philippines have affected the entry of foreign investments.

The Palace refuted Leong’s conclusion, telling him to conduct “more research.”

 READ: Manila pullout from ICC in effect, UN tells members

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READ: ICC probe of Philippines will backfire, Panelo claims

Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , International Criminal Court , Salvador Panelo , Human Rights Watch
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