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MANILA, Philippines – Lawmakers emphasized that the House of Representatives is an independent branch of government amid criticism on their discussions on proposed resolutions calling for government cooperation with the International Criminal Court’s probe into the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.
As of November 21, three resolutions are up for deliberations in joint sessions of the House panels on justice and human rights. These are being treated “like all other House resolutions,” said House Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe.
“As Chair of the Committee on Rules, I know for a fact that there is no instruction from the Office of the Speaker that requires us to give special attention to the House Resolution seeking our cooperation with the ICC,” Dalipe said in a statement on Friday, November 24.
On Monday, November 27, Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa noted that the “timing is very questionable,” considering that the latest resolutions were filed amid tensions between Vice President Sara Duterte and Romualdez. Duterte’s relationship with House members became strained after her offices – the OVP and the Department of Education – were denied their confidential fund requests for 2024.
“Do you think if their concern is very genuine, it would take one and a half year of this Congress to realize na, ‘O, kailangan pala nating papasukin ang ICC para mag-imbestiga (Oh, we need to allow the ICC to investigate in the country)?” Dela Rosa raised this in an interview with the ABS-CBN Channel’s Headstart.
ACT Teachers Representative France Castro, Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas, and Kabataan Representative Raoul Manuel filed the first resolution on October 17.
Their call for cooperation with the ICC probe stems from the admission of former president Rodrigo Duterte, made on on television in early October, that he used state funds, specifically intelligence funds, to carry out killings when he was mayor of Davao City.
In defense of Tatay Digong
The Vice President earlier criticized lawmakers’ “sudden and unannounced joint meetings” related to the ICC probe. At the time, the House joint panel had only one meeting related to the investigation.
“To allow ICC prosecutors to investigate alleged crimes that are now under the exclusive jurisdiction of our prosecutors and our Courts is not only patently unconstitutional but effectively belittles and degrades our legal institutions,” she said.
Makabayan lawmakers did not take this lightly, with Castro calling Duterte’s statement a “shameless interference” in the job of lawmakers.
“Baka siya ‘yung unconstitutional na ginagamit pa ‘yung letterhead ng OVP to influence, i-lecture kami, or even threaten the House dito sa pagdinig kaugnay noong resolution para mag-cooperate ang gobyernong Pilipinas doon sa imbestigayon ng ICC. Huwag niyang diktahan ang House of Representatives,” Castro said.
(Maybe she’s the one being unconstitutional that she even used the OVP letterhead to influence, lecture us, or even threaten the House regarding the hearings on the resolutions urging the Philippine government to cooperate on the ICC probe. She should not dictate on the House of Representatives.)
Manuel emphasized that even the Supreme Court ruled that the Philippines still has obligations to the ICC. “Kine-question din ba ng Vice President ang Supreme Court? (Is the Vice President also challenging the Supreme Court)?”
‘Not a priority’
Dalipe said the ICC probe is “not a House priority,” but reiterated that the country’s democratic principles welcome respect for different perspectives. He added that legislative decisions also take into account the different opinions and views of Filipinos.
“All members of the House are entitled to voice their perspectives within the democratic framework, ensuring a robust and inclusive discussion on matters of national importance,” Dalipe said.
For his part, Romualdez said on Friday that the resolutions are only so far “just the sense of some of the congressmen.”
The joint committee postponed its first meeting on the House resolutions last week to wait for the proposed House resolution of Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman to be assigned. Lawmakers are also looking into inviting resource speakers, including those from government agencies and victims of Duterte’s drug war.
The panel on justice and human rights will reconvene on Wednesday, November 29. – Rappler.com