The International Criminal Court (ICC) has no business interfering in the country’s domestic affairs since the judicial system is working, Senator Christopher Go said Thursday.
Go, who is often seen with President Rodrigo Duterte, said the government’s bloody war on drugs would continue despite the ICC move to hold the President accountable for the thousands of deaths from anti-drug operations.
“They have no business interfering with our internal affairs,” Go said, even as Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the ICC has full jurisdiction over the drug war-related deaths in the country under the Duterte administration from 2016 to March 2019, right before the Philippines withdrew from the ICC.
The crimes committed during that period, according to HRW International Justice Program associate director Param-Preet Singh, are “fair game for the ICC.”
“The Philippines was a state party to the ICC from November 1st, 2011, to March 17th, 2019,” Singh said in a press briefing Wednesday evening.
Although building the case and establishing pieces of evidence to prove the elements of the crime is going to be a slow and tedious process given that the tribunal operates outside the country’s borders, Singh told reporters that ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has already taken these into consideration and is, therefore, several steps ahead.
“She indicated that she’d already taken steps to preserve evidence knowing that this would be a challenge moving forward,” Singh said.
Singh said this is not the first time that a concerned party does not wish to oblige the ICC.
The new prosecutor and Bensouda’s successor, the British lawyer Karim Khan, took her place Wednesday and was also aware of the drug war after his visit to the country back in 2018.
Now that he is in charge, Khan “has been given a set of cards that he has to play,” said Singh.
In December 2020, the ICC Office of the Prosecutor announced that there is a “reasonable basis” to believe that crimes against humanity were committed during Duterte’s war on drugs.
That same year, Duterte called the ICC Prosecutors “fools.”
Based on government data, as of April 30, 2021, at least 6,117 are weilled during operations by the Philippine National Police (PNP).
However, rights groups have estimated a larger number ranging between 27,000 to 30,000, including those killed vigilante-style.
Duterte has brushed off Bensouda’s report on the government’s war on drugs, saying it was based on hearsay.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque noted that the ICC report was based merely on reports from Rappler and ABS-CBN.
“He shrugged it off. Upon checking, these are all media sources, and all lawyers know that it will not stand in court,” he added.
“You cannot start the process on the basis of hearsay evidence,” he said.
He added that Bensouda’s sources were mostly “enemies” of the
President, referring to members of the opposition, as well as self-exiled Communist Party of the Philippines chairman and founder Jose Maria Sison.
“This is now a political issue. The President will never cooperate until his term ends in June 2022,” Roque added.
Meanwhile, Duterte disagreed with the Philippines’ vote backing the
United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) investigation into supposed Israeli war crimes and actions in the Gaza strip, but it can no longer take it back, Malacanang said.
Roque said the President expressed objections to the vote, saying he was not consulted.
“Did the President disagree with the vote? Yes, he did. Can it be taken back? Apparently not,” Roque said in a virtual press conference.
As a result, concerned senior government officials have been reminded about consulting the President before making any crucial vote on international issues.
The UNHRC on May 27 adopted a resolution establishing an inquiry into alleged violations of humanitarian law and abuses of international human rights in the Palestinian territories and inside Israel.
The Philippines is among the 24 UNHCR state-members that voted in favor of the investigation into the decades-long “systematic” discrimination against and domination over Palestinians.
The Palace said the Philippines would keep its “excellent” ties with Israel despite its recent vote backing the UNHCR probe.