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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

‘Be man enough’ to declare ICC presence, Bato tells President

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Amid reports that the International Criminal Court (ICC) could soon issue warrants for his arrest for leading former President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, Senator Ronald dela Rosa challenged President Marcos to “be man enough” to tell them if the government indeed allowed the court’s investigators into the country.

Dela Rosa was reacting to statements by former senator Antonio Trillanes IV, who said the ICC had finished its investigation of high-level respondents such as Duterte and the senator, who was the chief of the national police during the previous administration, and had gathered enough evidence to indict them.

“What I am asking from the government is to be man enough to tell us what to do. Just tell us,” Dela Rosa said. “If they changed their stand, please tell us. You are our President. Tell us what to do.”

Dela Rosa said he had banked on the word of President Marcos that he would not allow ICC investigators to enter the Philippines to investigate the extrajudicial killings during the Duterte administration’s bloody drug war that killed thousands of drug suspects, many under suspicious conditions.

“This means there was a change in their stand,” Dela Rosa said, referring to Trillanes’ statement. “It’s not our call, it’s their call.”

Trillanes, who filed a supplemental complaint against Duterte before the ICC in 2017, said the investigators were in the country in December.

Lawyer Harry Roque, Duterte’s spokesperson, said he would defend Dela Rosa and that Senator Francis Tolentino would be part of his legal team, if the ICC moved against him.

Meanwhile, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. said they have yet to receive confirmed reports on any arrest warrants.

If the ICC issued an arrest warrant against Duterte and other respondents, Acorda said the PNP would depend on the “highest office” for guidance on how to treat the arrest orders.

Since the ICC has no law enforcement body, it would rely on the concerned country to arrest the accused.

Roque again said the ICC had no jurisdiction in the Philippines.

“No amount of evidence can vest any court with jurisdiction where it has none. The preliminary investigation was authorized long after our withdrawal [from the ICC] had come into effect. The court is thus bereft of jurisdiction.”

Duterte’s former chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo agreed.

“There is no validation from the government that the ICC probers have set foot in the country… Even assuming that they are here, they cannot pluck out evidence from nothing. Hearsay and speculation are not evidence,” he said.

Meanwhile, a lawyer for the families of those killed in Duterte’s drug war said they were considering filing a supplemental affidavit against the former President, especially if the ICC investigation is not yet complete.

Former congressman and Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares said this would contain “new threats” made by Duterte in public forums and television interviews.

“That is one of the possibilities we are eyeing, and if we can submit it before the investigation is done. If not, if the investigation already ended, we can still use these affidavits just in case there would be a trial,” Colmenares said.

He said his group received no information about the supposed visit to the country by ICC investigators.

In a statement, Colmenares, one of the lead counsels for the families of those killed during Duterte’s drug war, said there may have been security considerations, meaning it was possible that the ICC investigators—or even local authorities—deliberately decided not to inform the public.

He said “we are not aware of that,” referring to the ICC entry.

The former lawmaker added that “when it comes to the evidence collected, we always believed that the pieces of evidence submitted to the ICC have been very strong, in terms of witnesses and whistle-blowers.”

“For me, the results of the investigation should not take any longer because we believe that the evidence is already strong and the [families of the] victims have been waiting for justice since 2017 and 2018, and it’s 2024 already. We hope that the trial against former President Duterte and his subordinates will soon begin,” Colmenares said.

He said should the resolution resulting from the ICC investigation be in favor of the drug war victims, the ICC prosecutor can then recommend the case for trial.

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