PH gov’t won’t cooperate if International Criminal Court investigates its drug war

Filipino cops at a crime scene. Photo: Fernando Sepe Jr./ABS-CBN News
Filipino cops at a crime scene. Photo: Fernando Sepe Jr./ABS-CBN News

President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo today said that the Philippine government will not cooperate if the International Criminal Court (ICC) decides to conduct a full-blown investigation into the alleged abuses committed during the bloody drug war.

Panelo said this during a press conference today at Malacañang Palace in Manila, where he also said that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the Philippines.

He was quoted by the Philippine Star saying: “They cannot do anything against us.”

The Philippines is set to withdraw its membership from the ICC on March 17, despite the existence of a petition filed by several senators at the Supreme Court (SC) asking it to revoke Duterte’s decision to withdraw from the organization, reported The Philippine Daily Inquirer. 

The SC has failed to issue a decision in connection to the petition and its last full court session was on Tuesday.

Duterte decided to withdraw from the ICC due to what he says were the organization’s attacks against him and his government. Duterte also said the ICC has no jurisdiction over the Philippines because the country’s ratification of the Rome statute that created the ICC was not published in the government’s official publication.

At the same time, the government insists that the ICC can only probe cases involving genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes if the local courts are unable or not willing to do so, GMA News reported.

This was again echoed by Panelo, who also works as the president’s chief legal counsel, today. “There’s no jurisdiction, why would we cooperate when there’s no jurisdiction?” Panelo said, as quoted by SunStar Manila.

Panelo also said that the ICC is currently conducting a preliminary examination into the alleged abuses committed during the drug war, not a preliminary investigation.  If it were currently conducting an investigation, according to him, they could proceed even after the Philippines has withdrawn from the ICC, but he said that’s not the case.

Prior to Panelo’s announcement of non-cooperation, Duterte said at a campaign rally in Isabela yesterday that he is willing to be hanged by the ICC.

He said: “One day, these idiots at the ICC, if they decide to hang me, I would be very glad to go and I would even put it (rope) around my neck.”

The government launched its bloody drug war in 2016, where allegedly thousands of drug suspects have been killed summarily by members of the Philippine National Police (PNP). The PNP insists that many of the killings occurred because the suspects fought back, an excuse that many Filipinos have become skeptical of.

At the same time, there’s much suspicion that the PNP is not giving an accurate picture of the drug war. It estimated in February that 5,176 suspects have been killed in the drug war, and yet the Commission on Human Rights has said that as much as 27,000 have died.

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