Department of Justice

From tough stance, Remulla now says ICC cooperation needs ‘serious study’

Jairo Bolledo

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From tough stance, Remulla now says ICC cooperation needs ‘serious study’

CHIEF. Justice Secretary Boying Remulla during a House committee hearing on August 3, 2023.

House press and public affairs bureau

Back in July, when the International Criminal Court junked the Philippine government's appeal, Department of Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla says the ICC is not welcome here and has no business to be in the country

MANILA, Philippines — Departing from his standard response on matters concerning the International Criminal Court (ICC) probe, Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said the recommendation to cooperate with the ICC probe needs further study.

“[It] needs a serious study on our part, at the DOJ, considering we are no longer members,” Remulla told reporters on Tuesday, November 21.

Remulla made the remarks after Manila 6th District Representative Bienvenido Abante, House committee on human rights chair, and 1-Rider Representative Ramon Rodrigo Gutierrez, filed House Resolution No. 1477 urging 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.”

This development in the House of Representative is part of the recent push for government to cooperate with the ICC probe into the drug war killings during the term of former president Rodrigo Duterte, after the Makabayan’s bloc resolution in October.

In an earlier message to Rappler, Remulla said there are no mechanisms yet for the personnel of ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan — the one who handles the Philippine case — to gain entry to the country. A dialogue has also yet to be held.

Asked if the DOJ, under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s presidency was open for a dialogue if Khan reached out again, Remulla responded to Rappler: “Of course…It’s diplomacy [that] we have to practice.”

From tough stance, Remulla now says ICC cooperation needs ‘serious study’

The ICC probe into the drug war killings, including the crimes of the shadowy Davao Death Squad, is still ongoing. In July this year, the ICC appeals chamber junked the appeal of the Marcos government against the probe, and essentially green lighting the probe.

Based on the government data, at least 6,252 people were killed during police anti-illegal drug operations from July 1, 2016 to May 31, 2022. However, if victims of vigilante-style killings will be included, the tally could be around 30,000, according to several human rights groups.

On the issue of membership, the Philippines is still mandated to cooperate with the ICC probe even though it already ceased to be a member of the Rome Statute — the treaty that established the ICC. Article 127 of the Rome Statute states that all proceedings prior to the withdrawal of a state remain valid. Even the Philippines’ very own Supreme Court stands by this principle.

The ICC probe covers the drug war killings during Duterte’s presidency, from July 2016 to March 16, 2019, including the incidents that occurred in Davao City between 2011 and 2016, when Duterte was either mayor or vice mayor. 

Even though the Philippines is mandated to cooperate in this probe, the reality is, the success of the case will still rely on the state’s willingness to cooperate. The ICC relies on the cooperation of countries in matters like the arrest or surrender of the probe’s suspect.

Softer stance?

In his more than one year of heading the justice department, Remulla had issued several statements about the ICC, with varying messaging. But generally, Remulla had a strong stance against the ICC probe.

Remulla, in September 2022, hit Khan and said the ICC prosecutor is doing the court a “disservice” for challenging the Philippine justice system. Following the appeal denial in July, Remulla even advised Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa to avoid countries where “the ICC will be able to influence the judicial system.”

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Dela Rosa, a police-turned-senator, was considered the “architect” of Duterte’s drug war. He was the Philippine National Police chief when the former president launched his bloody war on drugs in 2016.

In July, Remulla also made a strong statement against the international body.

The DOJ chief said that although Filipinos are a “very hospitable people,” the ICC is not welcome in the Philippines. He added that the ICC has no business in the Philippines, and that the country will not cooperate even when the ICC issues a warrant against people tagged in crimes being investigated. — Rappler.com

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  1. ET

    It seems that DOJ Chief Remulla’s “serious study” is just for show. Perhaps, it is his way of expressing that he is still able to maintain his “toughness” despite the softening ordered by his “new” boss. Such a softening against the ICC is really against his own belief but he is obliged to follow the command of his “new” boss.

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.