Gary Alejano: Duterte can’t do to ICC what he does to CHR, SC, Ombudsman

Jodesz Gavilan

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Gary Alejano: Duterte can’t do to ICC what he does to CHR, SC, Ombudsman
President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration have no control over the International Criminal Court, Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano says

MANILA, Philippines – Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano believes that President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration are pressured by developments in the International Criminal Court (ICC) despite public pronouncements that show otherwise. 

This comes as the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC on February 8 announced it was starting a preliminary examination into the high number of deaths under Duterte’s war on drugs  “following a careful, independent, and impartial review of communications and reports.”

“That is just his public image but in reality, it’s going to be a pressure and I don’t think the possible ICC case doesn’t matter to Malacañang,” Alejano told Rappler editor-at-large Marites Vitug on Thursday, February 22.

“It matters because even beyond the term of the President and those primary responsible for the extrajudicial killings, they would be made responsible and liable,” he added.

During a preliminary examination, the ICC Prosecutor has to establish whether there are “genuine national proceedings” being conducted under the Philippine justice system as the office can only investigate if it sees that the Philippines does not or is “unwilling or unable to do so genuinely.” (WATCH: The International Criminal Court process) 

Duterte said he welcomed the move “because he is sick and tired of being accused of the commission of crimes against humanity.” Days after, on February 13, he said that threats to kill drug personalities were just mere expressions of outrage, insisting that he did not order anyone to kill. 

According to Alejano, the administration’s threats against the ICC will amount to nothing because “they don’t have control” over the international court. 

”They’re concerned about [the examination] because they don’t have control over ICC, not like here in the Philippines that they can always threaten the Supreme Court, the Ombudsman, the Commission on Human Rights,” he said.

READ Rappler’s explainers:
Yes, Int’l Criminal Court can prosecute Duterte for killing spree

Police, military officials liable for Duterte’s illegal kill orders
What challenges will complaint vs Duterte face before ICC?
ICC’s track record and what it means for Duterte and the PH

Need for an independent institution 

Alejano, together with Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, filed in 2017 a communication urging the court to “commit” Duterte and his senior officials to a trial while highlighting the President’s various pronouncements regarding the killings of criminals, specifically suspected drug personalities. Their report supplemented Filipino lawyer Jude Sabio’s earlier filing.

According to Alejano, their decision to bring the issue before the ICC stems from the lack of accountability and mechanisms available in the Philippines. (READ: Keep ‘balance of power’ in government – IBP head)

“We believe that we need an institution that is free from threats, that is independent enough to look into the case of extrajudicial killings in the country,” he said. “Right now, in the country, there is an imbalance already of powers. And the powers start to concentrate in the executive department. So we don’t expect judiciary to render decisions against the President.”

Data from the government show that at least 3,987 individuals have been killed in anti-drug operations of the police. The number of those killed vigilante-style is still highly contested – with human rights groups estimating the figure could be more than 12,000. 

Alejano said that to attain justice, you cannot just to file cases against a handful of police officers but to also hold accountable “the most guilty” – in this case, Duterte. 

“Do you think you can have meaningful and genuine investigations and prosecution against the President in this country? I don’t think so,” he said. –

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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.