Who did Duterte consult on his long ICC statement?
Much ado has been made about the press statements issued by President Rodrigo Duterte in which he declared the withdrawal by the Philippines from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
But the statements and the way they were issued raise some interesting questions about Malacañang’s messaging and how it deals with major decisions like backing out of a treaty.
According to sources in the Palace, Duterte’s “press statements” never went through the Office of the Executive Secretary, an office that typically drafts documents with legal impact. While merely a press statement, such a document would surely have merited a second look by that office.
At the very least, it would have been expected for all major officials in Malacañang to be on the same page about such a critical announcement as the country’s withdrawal from the ICC.
But things did not happen as expected. There had been confusion in Malacañang when reporters publicized the statements because they were not released the usual way.
There was no formal announcement by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque nor any press conference by Duterte himself. A document with such an impact on foreign relations also did not emanate from the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Instead, hard copies of the statements were distributed by Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo to reporters in Malacañang on Wednesday afternoon.
He distributed a 3-page document and a 15-page one, both without any official markings like a presidential seal or even Duterte’s signature. Panelo explained that the shorter statement was a condensed version of the larger document, which reads like a position paper.
Both, he later on said, were press statements from Duterte himself.
The President very rarely issues written statements. His preferred mode of making a big announcement is through his public speeches. Or he would ask for Malacañang staff to help him come up with a video message to be broadcast on government-run channels.
Other times, he would call a press conference, as he did when he announced the temporary halt of police leadership in his drug war.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea had no hand in drafting the statements, according to a reliable source. Roque, Duterte's own official spokesman, said that while he confirmed Duterte’s directive to withdraw from the ICC, he had not seen the statements before they were publicized.
“No, I knew about the directive only,” he told Rappler.
This is curious as Duterte typically speaks with Roque on matters pertaining to the ICC, given his status as among the few Asian lawyers qualified to represent clients before the ICC. Roque is also Duterte’s adviser on human rights.
In fact, such was the confusion that some officials were even wondering if the press statements can be considered official.
The question on many people’s minds was: who wrote the statements and how did they get them released without going through more formal channels?
Who does Duterte consult when making such big decisions and announcements? Is he talking to government officials only or are private individuals getting a word in too?
Also, how much of the press statements are arguments made by Duterte himself?
For sure, his citing the non-publication of the Rome Statute in the Official Gazette is all his own. He had already mentioned this in public speeches.
In the statement, he cited other defenses: presidential immunity, right to due process, a politicized ICC, and legitimacy of police anti-drug operations and actions.
Rappler tried multiple times to ask Panelo how the statements were crafted. He has not responded as of posting.
It's interesting for Panelo to have distributed the press statements. As Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, it's a task that does not usually fall on him. Panelo, however, had once been considered by Duterte to be his spokesman.
The day after, the dust settled. The Office of the Executive Secretary is now in control of the situation as Duterte has tasked Medialdea with informing the UN of the withdrawal notice.
The OES is now determined to ensure the proper procedure will be observed as it consults with the Department of Foreign Affairs. – Rappler.com
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