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MANILA, Philippines — With certain considerations, the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigators can enter the Philippines according to the government’s primary counsel, Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra.
“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,” Guevarra, who was former president Rodrigo Duterte’s justice secretary, told CNN Philippines in an interview on Friday, December 1.
However, the Solicitor General said “there is a wide latitude of discretion” on the part of the country’s immigration authorities to whether admit or deny the entry of the people whom they think may be considered undesirable.
Asked if the investigators could be deemed undesirable or unwelcome to enter the country, Guevarra replied: “As I said that is not for me to make a decision on. It is something that would have to depend on the assessment of the Bureau of Immigration with the guidance of the Department of Justice.”
Allowing ICC investigators to enter the country for the probe into Duterte’s drug war killings that killed thousands, including the crimes of the so-called Davao Death Squad, is the bare minimum that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. can do. This was also the call of drug war victims.
Amid the mounting pressure on the Marcos government to cooperate with the ICC, legal counsels of the victims from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers and Rise Up said the administration can cooperate — which is more simple — without the country having to rejoin the court yet. Rejoining the ICC would require more work and processes, on top of the possible political costs on Marcos.
Allowing the ICC investigators to enter was also part of the three acts that would entail cooperation, Kristina Conti, an ICC-accredited assistant counsel and one of the victims’ lawyers, told Rappler. The other two are: a) allowing access to files and evidence, which are under the government’s custody; b) submitting other documents that may be necessary in the probe.
The recent pressure on the ICC investigation was the result of the filing and adoption of legislative resolutions asking the government to cooperate in the probe. Later on, Marcos talked about the matter — saying ICC cooperation was currently under study — which was different from his previous strong stand against the issue.
Can CHR cooperate?
Guevarra also noted that it would not be a problem if the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) will cooperate in the probe.
“That is not a problem as far as we are concerned because you know the CHR, the Commission on Human Rights is, under the Constitution, supposed to be an independent body. So if takes that position then so be it. We will not prevent the CHR from performing its mandate under the constitution,” the Solicitor General said.
In August this year, CHR chairperson Richard Palpal-latoc said the ICC is yet to reach out to them in relation to the drug war probe, but the commission is ready to cooperate since it was part of their mandate.
The CHR is an independent body created by the 1987 Constitution with the mandate “to conduct investigations on human rights violations against marginalized and vulnerable sectors of the society, involving civil and political rights.”
From the previous administration up to the present one, the CHR, however, remains out of the loop in the efforts to probe drug-related killings committed under Duterte’s bloody drug war. Despite this, the CHR continues its own probe into these killings.
In its report released on May 2022, the CHR said that it found indications in the injuries of victims that reflect “the brutality of the anti-drug campaign and [point to] possible abuse of strength and intent to kill by the perpetrators.” — Rappler.com