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Monday, February 26, 2024

PH return to ICC still under study—Marcos

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President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Friday said he ordered a study on the possible return of the Philippines under the fold of the International Criminal Court amid a push from the House of Representatives to allow the probe into the Duterte administration’s bloody war on drugs.

“Should we return under the fold of the ICC? So, that’s again under study. We’ll just keep looking at it and see what our options are,” the President said in a chance interview in Taguig City yesterday.

Mr. Marcos said the renewed push from some lawmakers for the government to cooperate with the ICC was “not unusual.”

“It’s really a sense of the House resolution and the sense—they are just expressing or manifesting the sense of the House that perhaps it’s time to allow or to cooperate with the ICC investigation,” he said.

Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe, for his part, said House Resolution 1477 urging the administration to collaborate with the ICC probe was not a priority.

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Dalipe said Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez has not issued any directive regarding the ICC investigation, “which means that the measure has to go through the normal legislative process.”

“As chair of the Committee on Rules, I know for a fact that there is no instruction from the Office of the Speaker that requires us to give special attention to the House Resolution seeking our cooperation with the ICC. This will be treated like all other House resolutions, but we have to respect the autonomy of the legislative process and the necessity for adherence to established procedures,” he said.

The President, however, acknowledged that there are issues on the ICC’s jurisdiction since the Philippines has withdrawn from the Rome Statute.

“As I have always said, there are still some problems in terms of jurisdiction and sovereignty. Now, if you can solve those problems then that would be something else,” Mr. Marcos said.

“But the questions like that are kind of fundamental. Because if you’re talking about the sovereign—jurisdiction of the ICC, especially since we have withdrawn from the Rome Statute a few years back —that brings into question, whether or not this is actually possible,” he added.

Former President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said he will never cooperate with the ICC’s investigation into his administration’s war on drugs.

Speaking through his former spokesperson in January, Duterte said “he would never allow foreigners to sit in judgment of him as long as Philippine courts are willing and able to do so.”

Some 6,000 people were killed in police anti-drug operations during Duterte’s term, official government figures show, but ICC prosecutors estimate the death toll at between 12,000 and 30,000.

Dalipe said while the House leadership holds Duterte in high esteem, it would not suppress any member of Congress advocating for ICC support in investigating the anti-drug campaign.

“The democratic principles that underpin the legislative process allow for the expression of diverse opinions. The House is composed of 310 independent minds and diverse cultural and political backgrounds, so it is important that we hear the sentiment of everyone,” he said.

Dalipe said all members of the House are entitled to voice their perspectives within the democratic framework.

In the Upper Chamber, Senator Risa Hontiveros said she is still hoping that President Marcos “would really command the executive to make way for that process.”

“I hope the executive will also pay heed to these senses of legislators about important issues, human rights, important institutions and processes like the International Criminal Court,” she said.

Hontiveros said she is seriously considering filing a similar resolution in the Senate, urging the administration to collaborate with the ICC probe.

Vice President Sara Duterte on Thursday called on House lawmakers to respect President Marcos’ earlier statement that the Philippines will not cooperate with the ICC probe.

She has not issued any statement following the President’s latest pronouncements yesterday.

The resolution urging the government’s cooperation with the ICC was discussed Tuesday at the House of Representatives and referred to the Committee on Justice.

The resolution’s author and House human rights panel chairman Bienvenido Abante Jr. said cooperating with the ICC would be a chance to show the Philippine justice system was working.

In 2019, the Philippines, under then-President Rodrigo Duterte, withdrew from the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC, after the tribunal began a preliminary probe into his drug war, followed by the launch of a formal inquiry later that year.

The probe was suspended in November 2021 after the government said it was re-examining several hundred cases of drug operations.

In January 2023, the ICC authorized the reopening of the inquiry. In July, the ICC Appeals Chamber denied the government’s petition against the resumption of the inquiry.

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