Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla on Sunday denied suggestions that he was shielding former President Rodrigo Duterte from the reopened International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into his bloody war on drugs.
“We are not covering up for anyone here. If the ICC has evidence they want to share with us that would help in the investigation, why not? Why do they need to try it in their court? We have our own court here,” Remulla said, in a TV interview.
“If they want to investigate something, they could provide us with the evidence, and we will investigate because we are responsible for our own country,” Remulla added.
In allowing the reopening of the investigation, the ICC said it was “not satisfied that the Philippines is undertaking relevant investigations that would warrant a deferral of the court’s investigations.”
Remulla earlier said the reopening of the ICC probe was an “unwelcome”irritant, and that he would not stand for any antics that would tend to question the country’s sovereignty.
The Justice secretary also denied coordinating his department’s response with Senator Ronald Dela Rosa, who led Duterte’s bloody war on drugs when he was chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
“I don’t talk to them about those things. We are handling the justice system the way it should be handled,” Remulla said.
Over the weekend, Dela Rosa shot back at the ICC, saying it was trying to impose its standards on a country where the justice system is working.
Still, he said, it looked unlikely that the current administration would cooperate with an ICC investigation.
“Let us just see the results. Our government is very consistent on itsstand not to allow them (to conduct their own probe of the killings in the Philippines,” he said.
Dela Rosa, who is a co-respondent of the former president, said it was Duterte’s opponents who brought the cases before the ICC.
Remulla, however, said he had no problem discussing the issue with the former president’s daughter, Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio.
“If we have a chance to talk, we will talk. I am always with her when the President leaves, we are the executive committee of the President… No problem, we can talk. We’ll talk about it,” he said.
In March 2019, Duterte had the Philippines withdraw from the Rome Statute that established the ICC, after it announced an interest in investigating human rights abuses in his drug war.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said that the country had no intention of rejoining the ICC.
Government records showed that at least 6,200 drug suspects were killed in police operations from June 2016 until November 2021. But several human rights groups said the actual death toll was between 12,000 and 30,000—most of them poor.
Remulla said the new administration wants to put an end to small-time buy-bust operations and refocus on big-time drug suppliers.
Remulla said the country’s real problem with illegal drugs was the big drug players and multi-million-peso enterprises, which is why the government should concentrate on them.
“What we are saying is, let’s stop with these piecemeal daily buy-busts….one gram and you send someone to jail for life. Let’s stop this. Let’s be better enforcers. Let us look at the problem from the source… What’s important is we are done with these small-change operations,” Remulla said.
“That’s where we should concentrate–how to stop the entry of drugs and how to stop their distribution,” he added.
Remulla said President Marcos “wants a more compassionate form of justice,” in contrast to Duterte, who launched a bloody war on drugs in which thousands of drug suspects were killed.
The Justice chief also vowed that all reforms to the country’s criminal justice system would be completed before the 2028 elections.
“Everything that we are doing, we will finish before 2028. By 2027, all the changes in the pipeline that are needed for our criminal justice system will be finished,” he said.
In a separate development, the PNP said only 10 senior police officials have not yet submitted their courtesy resignations as part of the administration’s campaign to clean house.
Of these, three are police generals and seven are colonels, said PNP Public Information Office chief Police Col. Red Maranan.
Earlier this month, Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. asked police generals and full colonels to submit their courtesy resignation as part of the government’s efforts to rid the police force of officers involved in the illegal drug trade.
PNP chief Police Gen. Rodolfo Azurin said he will wait until Jan. 31 for all officials to comply.