ICC case vs Duterte is PH’s ‘last recourse’ – opposition lawmakers

Mara Cepeda

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ICC case vs Duterte is PH’s ‘last recourse’ – opposition lawmakers
The congressmen argue that the ICC may step in if the Philippines is 'shown to be unwilling or unable to investigate, prosecute, and try in good faith'

MANILA, Philippines – Opposition lawmakers said the International Criminal Court (ICC) would be the Philippines’ “last recourse” if local institutions fail to bring justice to the victims of extrajudicial killings linked to President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

“I think that would be the last recourse ng ating bansa kung ‘yung mga (of our country if the) institutions in our country are not anymore functioning or providing justice for the Filipino people,” said Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano in a press conference on Tuesday, March 14.

“Kung pupunta ka sa DOJ (Department of Justice), kung makikita natin na instead of a department of justice ay naging department of injustice, kung pupunta ho tayo dapat sa Kongreso that will advance [the interests of] the other branches of the government, like the executive, eh nagiging santuwaryo pa ho ng ating Presidente at tinatakpan ‘yung kanyang mga ginagawa. So saan ho pupunta ang taongbayan?” he added.

(If you will go to the DOJ, which we see has become a department of injustice instead of a department of justice, if you will go to Congress and see that it will advance the interests of the other branches of government, like the executive, then they become sanctuaries for the President to cover up his tracks. Where else will the people go?)

The lawmaker made the statement after Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the case being contemplated by the camp of self-confessed ex-Davao Death Squad (DDS) member Edgar Matobato does not fall into any of the types of cases that can be heard by the ICC.

Matobato’s lawyer Jude Sabio announced last week that he will be filing a case against the President before the ICC for “crimes against humanity over extrajudicial killings.” His client had previously linked Duterte to the DDS.

More than 7,000 drug suspects have been killed in legitimate police operations and vigilante-style or unexplained killings because of Duterte’s bloody war against drugs. 

‘Must be done in good faith’

The Philippines is covered by the jurisdiction of the ICC after it signed and ratified the Rome Statute in 2011. (READ: Things to know about Duterte’s pet peeve ICC)

The Rome Statute lists murder as one of the 15 forms of crimes against humanity.

Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman explained that national jurisdictions like the Philippines have “primacy” over the ICC concerning the investigation, prosecution, and trial of cases.

But he added that the ICC may step in if these investigations, prosecutions, and trials are revealed to be “not done in good faith.”

“Such state-initiated investigations, prosecutions, and trials should not be a mere facade, but rather an impartial, honest, and good faith investigation, prosecution, and trial,” said Lagman.

“Otherwise, the ICC can step in, pursuant to the principle of complementarity, if the Philippines is shown to be unwilling or unable to investigate, prosecute, and try in good faith,” he added.

Meanwhile, Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin said he is in touch with Agnes Callamard, United Nations special rapporteur on summary executions. (READ: UN human rights experts urge PH to stop drug-related killings)

“We also made contact with special rapporteur Agnes Callamard for her to really come to the Philippines and investigate because these are very serious crimes and kailangan nating i-hold accountable si President Duterte (we need to hold President Duterte accountable),” said Villarin.

Last October, Callamard received the Philippine government’s invitation to probe extrajudicial killings in the country. But Duterte set a condition for the investigation – a “public debate” between him and Callamard. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.