MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte is not at all affected by the move of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to launch a preliminary examination into crimes allegedly committed under the administration’s war on drugs, his chief legal adviser said Friday.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said the preliminary examination is merely a step for the ICC to determine whether or not it could proceed with its investigation into the charges, filed in April last year against the President and several senior government officials.
“Wala, wala iyan. And even the President is not even affected by it. Sinasabi niya, 'di sige tuluyan nila ako. Ako pa mismo ang mag-aabugado sa sarili ko,’” Panelo said in a radio interview.
Panelo said the ICC could not take jurisdiction of the case against Duterte since Philippine courts are fully functioning and have actually taken on cases against erring state forces involved in the drug war.
“The fact is, mayroong congressional inquiry iyan ‘di ba, sa Senado. Mayroong imbestigasyon ang PNP (Philippine National Police), mayroong mga inihabla na sa hukuman. Kumbaga, nagpa-function ang gobyerno. Papasok lang sila kung walang ginagawa ang gobyerno at inutil na gawin ang dapat na gawin nito,” Panelo said.
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has asked the Philippine government’s full cooperation in its preliminary examination, saying it would be done with “full independence and impartiality.”
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Thursday said the ICC was just wasting its time and resources by undertaking the preliminary examination, insisting that the Philippines has not exhibited inability or unwillingness to probe allegations against the President.
Roque stressed that the Philippines ratified the statute with the condition that the ICC adheres to the principle of complementarity. Under this principle, the ICC must only function as a “court of last resort,” which means it would only act if a state is unable or unwilling to carry out an investigation and prosecution of a crime.
Duterte, who can only be prosecuted and ousted through impeachment proceedings, was slapped with an impeachment complaint in March 2017 by Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano. This, however, was dismissed by the House of Representatives, which is dominated by the President’s allies.
Amid concerns raised by the ICC, Duterte himself had threatened to withdraw the Philippines from the international court.
But Duterte’s fierce critic, Senator Leila de Lima, said the President could not just unilaterally decide to pull the Philippines out of the ICC.
Created in 1998 through the United Nations treaty called the Rome Statute, the ICC has jurisdiction over 124 of its members, including the Philippines.
It is the first permanent institution having power to exercise jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes of international concern such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression, and is seen to help end impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes.
The ICC has since received over 12,000 complaints or communications. Nine of these cases have gone to trial and six verdicts have been delivered.
The Philippines signed the Rome Statute on December 28, 2000 and ratified and endorsed it on August 30, 2011, during the time of Duterte’s predecessor, then President Benigno Aquino III.