The Philippines has hired an international lawyer to help the country in its appeal to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to reverse its decision to resume the probe into the Duterte administration’s war on illegal drugs.
“We engaged Ms. Sarah Bafadhel, she is a British barrister, she has her chambers in London, but she is practicing at the ICC at The Hague, the Netherlands,” Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra told CNN Philippines’ “The Source” on Wednesday.
The decision to hire Bafadhel to handle the government’s case before the ICC is needed to make sure the country’s interests is represented in the tribunal, Guevarra said.
The Solicitor General also said Malacañang has yet to decide whether to push through with a proposal to create an independent commission to investigate the campaign against illegal drugs during the Duterte administration.
Justice officials in the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. have insisted that the ICC need not proceed with its investigation as the Philippines has a functioning democracy.
Following the ICC’s decision to issue a warrant of arrest for Russian President Vladimir Putin in connection with the Ukraine-Russia War, Guevarra also said that while issuing a warrant is within the court’s powers, whether the same could be enforced is another thing altogether.
“The matter of issuing a warrant of arrest is always a possibility once the investigation is commenced. So, if the ICC Appeals Chamber authorizes the prosecutor despite our appeal to conduct his investigation, then part of that investigation is the issuance of a warrant of arrest,” Guevarra said.
“Whether the ICC can enforce it or not is a totally different question because the ICC will have to depend on local authorities to enforce that warrant of arrest. So, if the government does not cooperate because the matter of jurisdiction has not been finally settled who will enforce the warrant of arrest,” he added.
The Solicitor General, he said, is not representing any particular individual.
“The OSG is not defending any specific person. The OSG is representing the Republic of the Philippines. We are representing the state and we are saying that we are defending our domestic, legal, and judicial system because it has the primary responsibility to deal with crimes that were committed in our own territory,” Guevarra said.
As for Bafadel, “International criminal law is her field of expertise and we chose her from a list supplied to us by the Philippine Embassy at the Hague,” the SolGen said.
“And we found based on her training and experience that she would be the best international criminal law expert who might be able to assist the Philippine government on procedural issues essentially,” Guevarra said.
Guevarra said the idea of putting up an independent commission to investigate the campaign against illegal drugs has been forwarded to Malacañang.
“The idea is still percolating. It’s an idea that has been floated several times in the past. Not necessarily from me alone, there were other very important persons who broached or floated the idea,” he said.
“People are giving their comments on the advantages or disadvantages of such an idea. But I think from my point of view it’s a good one because it will complement the existing investigations being done domestically. It will probably expedite (the process),” Guevarra added.