Bato dela Rosa

Dela Rosa: Tolentino will rescue me if I’m arrested

Bonz Magsambol

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Dela Rosa: Tolentino will rescue me if I’m arrested

Senator Ronald dela Rosa, chairman of Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, blew his top when two PNP officers who pilferred 42 kilos of suspected drugs, did not admit on the case filed against them, on March 15, 2023.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

Senator Bato dela Rosa says if he has to travel to an International Criminal Court member state and a warrant is issued for his arrest, he can count on Senator Francis Tolentino to represent him

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa said on Thursday, March 30, he is unfazed by the threat of arrest in relation to the ongoing International Criminal Court (ICC) probe into the Duterte government’s bloody drug war, saying he has legal counsel, Senator Francis Tolentino, to come to his rescue if that ever happens.

Dela Rosa said he was aware that he cannot get arrested if he doesn’t leave the country, but in the event that he has to travel to an ICC member state, he has a lawyer to take care of any legal issues.

“Hindi ako takot. Alam ko naman na walang mangyayari diyan kung hindi lang ako lalabas sa ating bansa. Kung maglabas sila ng warrant of arrest, hindi naman nila ako puwedeng arestuhin. Iyon lang, just in case pupunta ako sa ibang bansa at huhulihin ako doon, nandiyan na si Senator Francis Tolentino to the rescue para magrepresent sa akin sa kahaharapin ko,” Dela Rosa told reporters in a press briefing.

(I’m not scared. I know that nothing will happen if I don’t leave the country. If they issue a warrant of arrest, they can’t arrest me. But just in case I go to abroad and I’m arrested there, I have Senator Francis Tolentino to rescue me and to represent me.)

As the Duterte administration’s first police chief, Dela Rosa is regarded as the architect of then-president Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war that took thousands of lives. From July 2016 to October 2018 – a period that mostly covered Dela Rosa’s stint as PNP chief – the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency said at least 4,999 were killed in police anti-drug operations.

Before he led the PNP, Dela Rosa served as Davao City police chief when Duterte was mayor. The Davao Death Squad (DDS) flourished under Duterte and was known to carry out kill orders from higher-ups that allegedly included the former Davao City mayor, according to former member Arturo Lascañas. The whistleblower had implicated Dela Rosa as among the alleged “enablers” of Duterte.

“Just in case lang, in certain circumstances makabiyahe ako sa isang lugar na ICC member at hulihin ako I need services of a lawyer at si Sen Tol ang nakikita ko,” Dela Rosa said.

(Just in case, in certain circumstances, that I need to travel to any ICC member country and I am arrested, I need services of a lawyer and that is Senator Tolentino.)

On Wednesday, March 29, Tolentino announced that he agreed to be Dela Rosa’s legal counsel before the ICC. (READ: Tolentino is Dela Rosa’s legal counsel in ICC probe)

Based on ICC guidelines, “experienced lawyers who wish to represent defendants or victims as counsel before the Court must be admitted to the List of Counsel.”

Tolentino is not yet on the list as of December 20, 2022. Harry Roque is the only Filipino lawyer on the list so far. In the list of assistants to counsels, the only Filipino is human rights lawyer Kristina Conti of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers.

In a decision dated Monday, March 27, the ICC rejected the appeal of the Philippine government to suspend an ongoing investigation into Duterte’s violent war on drugs while appeal proceedings were being held.

Terminate US aid to PH?

Dela Rosa also hit the proposed bill of a US lawmaker that seeks to block security aid to the Philippines over human rights concerns, saying if this ever happened, the Philippine government would “terminate” its Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States.

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“Oh sige, putulin ‘nyo. Ihinto rin namin iyong EDCA rito. Huwag na kayo mag-exercise dito (Okay, end it. We will also terminate EDCA here. Don’t do your exercises here),an enraged Dela Rosa said, claiming that that the help the Philippines gets from the US is almost negligible.

“We can’t feel it. Kayo ba naramdaman ‘nyo ba tulong nila? Importante huwag tayo pahawak sa ilong nila. Hindi naman sila mga bossing natin, bakit tayo sunod nang sunod sa kanila,” he added.

(We can’t feel it. Can you feel their help? What’s important is that we don’t let them control us. They are not our boss so why do we always follow them.)

The cancellation of Dela Rosa’s US visa in January 2020 –  widely seen as an effect of the Global Magnitsky Act that imposes sanctions on human rights violators – led to Duterte’s order to scrap the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement with the US. This order, however, was later suspended, and eventually discarded.

On February 2, the Philippines and the US agreed on four new local bases in the country where American troops will be allowed to build facilities and preposition defense assets, nearly nine years after both countries signed EDCA.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had said that adding the sites would boost the Philippines’ ability to defend the “eastern side” of Luzon. The US has committed $80 million in infrastructure investments at the five existing EDCA sites – the Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu, and Lumbia Air Base in Mindanao. –

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.