Marcos shoots down prospect of Philippines rejoining ICC

Camille Elemia and Jason Gutierrez
2022.08.01
Manila
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Marcos shoots down prospect of Philippines rejoining ICC Human rights activists stage a protest in Manila to mark the inauguration of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., June 30, 2022.
Jason Gutierrez/BenarNews

New President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Monday shot down calls from human rights groups for the Philippines to rejoin the International Criminal Court, saying the country could conduct its own investigations into deaths related to his predecessor’s drug war.

Marcos made the announcement after he met with some cabinet officials last week to discuss the state’s position on an ICC investigation into former President Rodrigo Duterte. In June, Karim Khan, the top prosecutor with The Hague-based court, asked its pre-trial chamber to resume a probe into the Duterte administration’s bloody counter-narcotics crackdown.

“The Philippines has no intention of rejoining the ICC,” Marcos told reporters on Monday. “Our meeting was for the purposes of continuing the investigation. We are saying that we are conducting an investigation here.”

The president said the ICC is a “very different” legal body than local courts.

Marcos said he convened his legal team to discuss his administration’s strategy in dealing with the ICC.

“I told them to study the procedures to make sure what we do is current,” he said.

The ICC is investigating allegations of crimes against humanity allegedly committed under Duterte’s leadership. According to official government numbers, about 8,000 suspected addicts and dealers died in his drug war, but rights groups say the figure could be three times higher.

Four years ago, Duterte withdrew the country’s ratification of the Rome Statute, an international treaty that created the ICC, effectively terminating the Philippines’ membership in the court.

He then attacked the ICC as being “utilized as a tool against the Philippines” to paint a bad picture of his administration’s efforts to rid the country of drug dealers and drug addiction.

Among those who met with Marcos last week were Menardo Guevarra, Duterte’s former justice secretary who Marcos has retained in his cabinet as solicitor general; his chief legal counsel, Juan Ponce Enrile, a former senator who served as a long-time defense chief under his father; Justice Secretary Crispin Remulla; Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo; and international law expert Harry Roque, who also served as Duterte’s spokesman.

The meeting took place more than a week after the ICC invited the Philippines to offer observations on the ICC prosecutor’s request to reopen the probe into killings attributed to Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, according to Marcos’ office.

The International Criminal Court gave Manila until September to provide any observations on its planned reopening of the investigation.

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Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. gives a speech while visiting a vaccination site in Manila, Aug. 1, 2022. [Jam Sta Rosa/AFP]

Duterte tried to ‘mislead’

Duterte, while in office, repeatedly insisted that the ICC no longer had jurisdiction over the Southeast Asian nation because Manila had officially cut ties with the international court on March 17, 2019, exactly a year after revoking its ratification of the Rome Statute.

The court, however, said it had a mandate to investigate alleged summary executions in the years before Manila’s termination of the ratification, including when Duterte served as mayor of Davao, his hometown in the southern Philippines.

The former president’s daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, serves as vice-president under Marcos. Analysts have said their election virtually assures that the new central government will work to shield Duterte from an ICC probe during their six-year term in office.

The justice department under Duterte had tried to “mislead” the ICC by claiming that the department had already begun a serious investigation into alleged rights abuses by looking at 52 cases where errant police were involved, Human Rights Watch alleged last week.

The ICC was seeking to continue an investigation because the Philippine report had failed to “satisfy the requirements to defer” its investigation, the international watchdog group said.

“Marcos should repair the Philippines’ damaged credibility with the ICC by ensuring his government’s full cooperation with the investigation,” it said.

In his first State of the Nation Address last week, Marcos did not mention human rights or the ICC.

But a few days later, on July 28, Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Teresita Daza said the government was affirming “its commitment to fight impunity for atrocities and crimes,” despite the country’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute.

Daza said this was the case, as “the Philippines also has a national legislation punishing atrocities.”

In response, Cristina Palabay of the Manila-based rights group Karapatan criticized Marcos for not talking about “civil and political rights” in his first speech before Congress as president.

Marcos’ address had failed to mention “domestic accountability mechanisms, justice for victims of HRVs under Duterte and International Criminal Court’s investigation, among others,” she said, using an acronym for human rights violations.

“When there’s eerie silence on these issues, we surmise that there are no significant shifts in the draconian policies of the previous Duterte administration,” Palabay said. “The impact is a more threatening environment that encourages further closing of democratic spaces.”

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