ICC investigators to be denied entry, deported if they visit PH to probe drug war

MANILA, Philippines – The Duterte administration will do everything it can to block the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigators from gathering data and conducting interviews in the Philippines in relation to the complaint brought before it against President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Bureau of Immigration will likely block ICC staff from entering the country while deportation awaits those who manage to get past immigration authorities, said Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo on Monday, March 18.

“When they tell Immigration that they will be investigating (the anti-drug campaign), maybe they’ll be denied entry immediately by Immigration,” said Panelo during a Malacañang news briefing.

ICC investigators will only be welcome in the Philippines as “guests” or tourists, but if they use this as merely a ruse to conduct an investigation on Philippine soil, they will be deported said the Duterte spokesman. 

“Smile at them and tell them nicely, ‘You can’t do it here. If you persist, you will be deported,’” said Panelo.

Asked what basis the government will cite for deporting ICC representatives, Panelo said, “it depends on what they will do.” 

He insisted that any ICC investigation is a violation of Philippine sovereignty.

“When you try to subject a country to your jurisdiction then you’re interfering with the sovereignty of that country because we have our own courts here, we can prosecute anybody, a violator of the law,” said Panelo. 

"We will not allow any attempt at interfering with the sovereignty of this country," he also said.

The Philippines’ withdrawal from the ICC took effect  on Sunday, March 17 – a year after the Duterte government signified its intention to quit the court, the world's only permanent war crimes tribunal.

But ICC observers have said preliminary examination launched by ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda would continue despite the withdrawal. Under ICC rules, any matter under consideration before a nation quits the court is still under the court’s jurisdiction. (EXPLAINER: ICC's track record and what it means for Duterte and the PH)

Duterte had previously threatened to arrest Bensouda if she sets foot in the Philippines.

Duterte continues to insist that the Philippines did not “withdraw” from the ICC, claiming the tribunal never had jurisdiction over the country since the Rome Statute was supposedly never published on the Official Gazette or a newspaper of general circulation.

Center for International Law rebutted this argument, saying publication in any newspaper of general circulation is not a requirement for a treaty to become binding upon the Philippines. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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