International Criminal Court

TIMELINE: What the Marcos administration says about the International Criminal Court

Jodesz Gavilan

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TIMELINE: What the Marcos administration says about the International Criminal Court
Rappler tracks statements made by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his officials regarding the International Criminal Court's probe into drug war killings under Rodrigo Duterte

MANILA, Philippines – Times are changing, at least with how the Philippine government is handling the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s investigation into the killings under Rodrigo Duterte’s violent war on drugs.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his administration for so long echoed the sentiments and rhetoric of Duterte and his allies – that the international court is encroaching on the country’s sovereignty, among others. 

But now, Marcos officials are seemingly being more considerate or at least open to the idea. As these developments unravel, families of drug war victims are wary of how everything stands on thin ice, especially as the turning of the tide is dependent on the tension between the Marcos and Duterte factions.

Rappler tracks the Marcos administration’s statements and actions related to the ICC. This story will be updated as more information comes in. 

OCTOBER 7, 2021 

Then-presidential candidate Marcos says he will not help ICC investigators. In an interview with CNN Philippines, he says that he will only allow them to enter the country as visitors, but nothing more. 

“They want us to help them bring accusations against our Filipino workers in government? Pambihira naman siguro ‘yun (that’s too much), I don’t think that’s right,” he says. 

JULY 27, 2022

Marcos officially convenes a legal team to discuss how his administration will handle ICC proceedings. Aside from Cabinet officials, the meeting is also attended by Duterte’s former spokesperson Harry Roque.

AUGUST 1, 2022

Marcos tells reporters that “the Philippines has no intention of rejoining the ICC.” The country officially ceased to be an ICC member-state in 2019 after the Duterte administration started the withdrawal process in 2018. 

Sinasabi naman namin eh may imbestigasyon naman dito at patuloy rin naman ang imbestigasyon, bakit magkakaroon ng ganoon?” he tells reporters. 

(We’re saying we already have investigations here and those are ongoing, so why should they have to investigate?)

DOJ CHIEF. In this file photo, justice Secretary Crispin Remulla speaks to the media. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler
SEPTEMBER 28, 2022 

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla says the ICC and its Prosecutor Karim Khan “cannot run roughshod over our system and say you’re a lousy country and you cannot do what we want you to do.”

He says Khan is doing the country a “disservice” for challenging the Philippines’ justice system. 

“Are they dictating on us, on what we should do as a country?” he tells reporters.

JANUARY 30, 2023

Marcos’ chief legal counsel Juan Ponce Enrile insists that the ICC has “no sovereign power” over the Philippines, and that the administration “will not allow any of our officials to be investigated or tried” by the court.

FEBRUARY 3, 2023 

The Philippine government, as represented by Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra, files a notice of appeal, asking the ICC to suspend its decision to resume its probe into the drug war killings.

This comes as the ICC pre-trial chamber allows the resumption of Prosecutor Khan’s investigation after it found that it is “not satisfied that the Philippines is undertaking relevant investigations that would warrant a deferral of the Court’s investigations on the basis of the complementarity principle.”

FEBRUARY 16, 2023 

At least 18 legislators file a resolution urging the House of Representatives to declare an “unequivocal defense” of Duterte in the face of intensified scrutiny of his drug war. 

The move was led by former president and now representative Gloria Arroyo. In the resolution, the lawmakers say that the Duterte administration ushered in “remarkable achievements brought about by his relentless campaign against illegal drugs, insurgency, separatism and terrorism, corruption in government, and criminality.”

FEBRUARY 18, 2023 

Marcos continues to echo the Duterte administration’s rhetoric. He tells reporters that he still “cannot see” the jurisdiction of the ICC, and that the country sees the court “as an intrusion into our internal matters and they are a threat to our sovereignty.” 

“I feel that we have in our police and our judiciary a good system. We do not need assistance from any outside entity. The Philippines is a sovereign nation and we are not colonies anymore of these former imperialists,” he says.

MARCH 13, 2023 

The Philippine government submits its appeal brief to the ICC, reiterating that Prosecutor Khan’s continued investigation into the drug war killings lacks legal foundation and “would encroach on the sovereignty” of the country.

MARCH 28, 2023 

Marcos says the Philippines is “disengaging from any contract, from any communication I guess with the ICC,” after the court junks his administration’s bid to suspend the ongoing probe during appeals proceedings.

He says that “in our view, there is nothing more that we can do in the government.”

“We have no longer any recourse when it comes to the ICC. We have not been involved with the actual action. Merely as a comment, we would comment, and the appeal is part of a comment. But we have not appeared as a party in the ICC because we do not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC,” Marcos says. 

MARCH 29, 2023 

The Marcos administration rejects democratic leaders’ acknowledgment of the “important” role of the International Criminal Court. While the Philippines endorses the Summit for Democracy Declaration, which was signed by at least 73 countries, it “disassociates” itself from parts that referenced the ICC.

“The PH government does not recognize the ICC’s jurisdiction and affirms that the PH has the jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute crimes, including those allegedly committed in the context of the country’s anti-illegal drugs campaign,” the Department of Foreign Affairs says in a statement.

Crowd, Person, Adult
FOCUS ON ENFORCEMENT. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. delivered his policy speech at the Center of Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC, USA on May 4, 2023. Presidential Communications Office
MAY 4, 2023 

Marcos says that a “focus on enforcement” of Duterte’s drug war resulted in “abuses by certain elements in the government.”

“In my view, what had happened in the previous administration is that we focused very much on enforcement. And because of that, it could be said there and that has caused some concern…in many quarters about the human rights situation in the Philippines,” Marcos says during a forum by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. 

MAY 16, 2023 

In its reply to an appeal, the Philippine government again claims that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the killings under Duterte’s drug war. 

JULY 18, 2023 

The Office of the Solicitor General expresses disappointment over the ICC chamber’s decision to reject the Philippine government’s appeal. It claims that the chamber “in effect, refused to recognize the Philippine Government’s primary and sovereign right to investigate serious crimes, in derogation of the complementarity principle so fundamental to the working of the international criminal justice system of which the ICC forms part.”

JULY 19, 2023 

Justice Secretary Remulla advises drug war architect Senator Ronald dela Rosa not to go to countries where “the ICC will be able to influence the judicial system.”

“‘Wag kayo pupunta sa lugar na maaring makialam ang ICC. Dito, hindi sila puwedeng makialam talaga rito…They are citizens of the republic who also need our protection so we need to tell them,” he says. 

(Don’t go to countries where the ICC can intervene. Here in the Philippines, they cannot really do any interventions. They are citizens of the republic who also need our protection so we need to tell them.)

JULY 21, 2023 

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. says all dealings with the ICC are done and over.

“We will not cooperate with them in any way, or form. So, we continue to defend the sovereignty of the Philippines and continue to question the jurisdiction of the ICC in their investigations here in the Philippines,” Marcos tells the media.

NOVEMBER 20, 2023 

Non-opposition lawmakers file a resolution calling on government agencies to assist the ICC’s investigation into the killings. 

The resolution, filed by Manila 6th District Representative Bienvenido Abante and 1-Rider Representative Ramon Rodrigo Gutierrez, urges the government “to extend their full cooperation to the ICC Prosecutor with respect to its investigation of any alleged crime within the jurisdiction of the ICC.” 

NOVEMBER 21, 2023

Justice (DOJ) Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla says there is a need to further study the lawmakers’ call to cooperate with the iCC. 

“[It] needs a serious study on our part, at the DOJ, considering we are no longer members,” Remulla says.

He also says that the DOJ is open to dialogue if ICC Prosecutor Khan reaches out, adding that “it’s diplomacy [that] we have to practice.” 

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NOVEMBER 23, 2023

Justice Secretary Remulla says the Marcos administration is set to discuss issues related to the Philippines and the ICC to ensure that they are on “the same page,” especially in the face of the House resolution.

Siyempre, ika-clarify lang kung may balak ba tayong maging miyembro muli ng ICC dahil sa ginagawa ng Kongreso (Of course, we will clarify if we have plans to be a member of the ICC anew amid Congress’ push). How it affects the whole universe of the ICC and the Philippine government as it is right now,”  he says.

Solicitor General Guevarra, however, downplays the House resolution, stating that it “runs counter to the position of the republic…that the Philippines has no legal duty to cooperate with the ICC on jurisdictional grounds, and that any such unwanted interference in our affairs by the ICC will encroach upon the sovereignty of our country.” 

NOVEMBER 24, 2023 

Marcos says his administration is studying the possible return of the Philippines as a member-state of the International Criminal Court.

“There is also a question, should we return under the fold of the ICC? So that’s again under study. So we’ll just keep looking at it and see what our options are,” he tells reporters, adding that “there are still problems in terms of jurisdiction and sovereignty.” 

DECEMBER 1, 2023 

Solicitor General Guevarra says ICC investigators can enter the Philippines, but there would be “a wide latitude of discretion” on the country’s immigration authorities. 

“For my point of view for as long as there will be no illegal activities to be conducted here, that they have the proper travel documents, I do not see any reason why they should be prevented from coming in because they’re going to interview certain persons, gather certain documents, so forth and so on,” he tells CNN Philippines.

JANUARY 23, 2024

President Marcos insisted that the Philippines is not cooperating with the ICC.

Days before that statement, former senator Antonio Trillanes IV claimed that ICC investigators entered the Philippines in December and already obtained evidence against former president Duterte. Senator Dela Rosa also urged the President to be transparent about the “real score” of the Philippines’ participation in the probe. 

“The Philippine government will not lift a finger to help any investigation that the ICC conducts. However, as ordinary people, they can come and visit the Philippines, but we will not help them. In fact, we are monitoring them, making sure they do not come into contact with any agency of the government. And if they are contacting agencies of the government – police force or local government units, we advise them not to answer,” Marcos said. – with reports from Dwight de Leon/Rappler.com

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and impunity beats, producing in-depth and investigative reports particularly on the quest for justice of victims of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and war on dissent.