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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

‘Exec action enough for ICC’

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De Lima asserts only Marcos can reverse ‘unilateral’ withdrawal

Former senator Leila de Lima said Friday an executive action would be enough for the Philippines to rejoin the International Criminal Court since its withdrawal did not benefit the country but only served the interest of one man: former President Rodrigo Duterte.

“An executive action would suffice, because, in the first place, the withdrawal [from the ICC] was unilateral,” De Lima said in an interview on ANC Friday.

She offered this assessment in response to Senator Ronald dela Rosa’s statement that even if current President Marcos decided to rejoin the ICC, this would need the concurrence of the Senate.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and former Senate president Franklin Drilon had disputed Dela Rosa’s statement, saying this was the President’s decision alone since the Senate resolution that expressed its concurrence with the Rome Statute had never been repealed.

“Why would it be so difficult to rejoin ICC when the withdrawal there from was highly suspect, serving only the interest of one man who obviously just wanted to evade accountability?” De Lima, jailed under the Duterte administration for more than six years, said.

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De Lima said the Philippines acknowledged the wisdom behind the Rome Statute that established the ICC when the Senate ratified the international treaty in 2011.

“So why perpetuate Duterte’s self-serving and shameless act of withdrawal?” De Lima asked.

“Those who oppose rejoining the ICC are only serving the interest ofDuterte and others who are responsible for the murder of thousands of our countrymen,” she added.

De Lima also criticized the statement of Vice President Sara Duterte, the former president’s daughter, on the administration’s possible cooperation with the ICC on her father’s bloody drug war.

“All told, the Dutertes of Davao are not the best resource persons for the administration in deciding whether or not to cooperate in the ICCinvestigation, considering that they are the ones being investigated for their role in the operation of a death squad in Davao City during the period within the scope of said investigation,” she said.

VP Duterte, she continued, is actually undermining the presidential prerogative to rejoin the ICC by saying she intends to submit a legal position to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

“But as a member of the cabinet, VP Sara has no business submitting such legal opinion in her capacity as DepEd Secretary. The ICC matter has nothing to do with the DepEd,” De Lima said.

“Second, if she is submitting her legal opinion in her capacity as VP, then she is accomplishing precisely the very opposite of her admonition that we should respect the President’s position, bypreempting the finality of said position even when she has no authority to do so,” she added.

“In her capacity as VP, she is not a member of the Cabinet, and therefore has no role whatsoever in shaping foreign policy at the Cabinet level.”

Meanwhile, Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra on Friday said it would be up to the DOJ and the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to allow prosecutors from the ICC into the country to investigate former President Duterte’s bloody war on drugs.

Guevarra said he saw no reason to prevent ICC officials from entering the country, but said the BI must decide, with guidance from the DOJ,whether to authorize that entry.

Philippine immigration laws, he added, have “a wide latitude of discretion on the part of our immigration authorities to admit or not to admit certain persons whom they think may be considered as undesirable.”

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla earlier said the government would consider it a crime if members of the ICC came into the country to investigate the drug war.

But that was before President Marcos softened his own stand on the ICC last month, raising the possibility of rejoining the international agency that his predecessor, Duterte, had quit.

Early in his term, President Marcos maintained the government would not cooperate with the ICC, saying there were no legal grounds to do so, especially after the country’s withdrawal from membership took effect in 2019.

But Guevarra this week said “cooperating despite the absence of a legal duty is a political decision that only the President can make.”

He also said the Commission on Human Rights would not be prevented from cooperating with ICC officials since it is an independent body.

A DOJ official said Friday that President Marcos and Remulla have yet to discuss rejoining the ICC.

“I don’t believe that the secretary and the President have spoken yet,” Justice Assistant Secretary Mico Clavano said in a press briefing.

“[The ICC question is] something that is way above my pay level so I believe it’s something that has to be discussed between the secretary and the President,” Clavano added.

On Thursday, the House committees on justice and on human rights adopted resolutions calling on the government to cooperate with the ICC probe of the thousands of deaths associated with Duterte’s war on drugs.

A similar resolution was filed by Senator Risa Hontiveros.

Asked if there was any official communication between Marcos and the

DOJ regarding the ICC, Clavano said no.

Marcos initially said the Philippines was done talking with the ICC, and that the international court has no jurisdiction over the Philippines as the country has already withdrawn from the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC.

But the President recently softened his stance, saying the prospect of rejoining the ICC was under study.

Following this statement, Remulla said he would meet with Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin to clarify the government’s position on its membership in the ICC.

Duterte allies such as Dela Rosa—who led the bloody war on drugs as police chief—have spoken vehemently against rejoining the ICC.

Senator Christopher Go, a longtime aide to the former President, on Friday said rejoining the ICC would be an affront to the Philippine justice system, which he said is working.

Echoing Duterte, he said Filipinos should be judged only by fellow Filipinos before Philippine courts operating under Philippine laws.

The former president’s daughter, VP Sara Duterte, has also been vocal in opposing the moves to cooperate with and rejoin the ICC.

De Lima, however, said these were merely efforts to shield the former president from accountability for the thousands of deaths brought about by his war on drugs.

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