Prosecutor opposes PH’s plea to suspend resumption of probe
MANILA — The International Criminal Court has granted the Philippine government’s request for more time to file an appeal over an ICC pre-trial chamber’s ruling allowing the resumption of the probe on the killings in the drug war in the Philippines.
In a decision dated Friday, February 17, the ICC Appeals Chamber extended until Monday, March 13, 2023 at 1600 hours Central European Time, the filing of an appeal brief that would contain the Philippine government’s arguments against the resumption of the ICC probe.
“The Appeals Chamber considers that the Republic of the Philippines has provided valid reasons in support of its Application. In particular, it notes the new administration’s logistical and administrative constraints,” wrote ICC Appeals Chamber Presiding Judge Marc Perrin de Brichambaut.
The Philippine government, led by Solicitor Menardo Guevarra, notified the ICC Appeals Chamber on February 3 of its decision to appeal the whole decision of the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber to allow the ICC Prosecutor to resume its probe on the drug war killings in the Philippines, as well as deaths connected to the Davao Death Squad.
The appeal brief was supposed to be due on Sunday, February 19, but on Wednesday, February 15, the Philippine government asked for an additional 20 days to file the brief citing the election of a new president and the difficulties of “newly appointed heads of government agencies” in gathering “comprehensive data and relevant records due to logistical and administrative constraints.”
“The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) awaits reply from other relevant government agencies on its request to submit status update on the pending investigations related to crimes committed on the Philippine territory between 1 November 2011 and 16 March 2019 in the context of the ‘war on drugs’ campaign. It has received responses and documents on separate occasions, but needs additional time to assess the relevance of these documents,” it said.
It added, it intends to hire an external counsel or consultant to assist in its appeal but will have to comply with internal requirements such as seeking approval for funding.
The ICC Appeals Chamber considered the Philippine government’s reasons as “good cause” which warranted the extension.
ICC PROSECUTOR: NO GROUND TO SUSPEND RESUMPTION OF PROBE
Meanwhile, ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan, in a submission on Thursday, February 16, opposed the Philippine government’s plea to suspend the ICC pre-trial chamber’s decision while the Philippine government appeals the ruling.
The suspension would have the effect of suspending the ICC Prosecutor’s probe while the appeal is pending, Khan said.
But he pointed out that while the Appeals Chamber has the discretion to do so, a suspensive effect is only granted as an exception to the rule in certain cases, if the implementation of the ruling: -would create an irreversible situation; -would lead to consequences that would be very difficult to correct and may be irreversible; or -could potentially defeat the purpose of the appeal.
“The Philippines has not provided any argument substantiating its request for suspensive effect, nor shown the implementation of the Decision would create an irreversible situation or that would be very difficult to correct or that could potentially defeat the purpose of the appeal. No such grounds for granting suspensive effect exist,” Khan said.
He pointed out that while the Appeals Chamber decides on the Philippine government’s appeal, the Philippines can continue with its domestic proceedings regardless if the ICC Prosecutor continues its probe or not.
Should the Philippine government win its appeal, the ICC Prosecutor can just discontinue the probe, he added, stressing the absence of any harm.
No reasons were cited by the Philippine government in its request for a suspensive effect of the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber ruling.
MARCOS, LAWMAKERS CONTINUE TO INSIST ICC HAS NO JURISDICTION
The new developments in the ICC come as Philippine lawmakers, led by former President and now senior deputy speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo file a resolution urging the House of Representatives to declare its “unequivocal defense” of former President Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte’s drug war campaign has led to at least 6,000 drug suspects killed in police operations while thousands more have been killed vigilante style by unknown killers accused of working for authorities.
House Resolution No. 780 praised Duterte for improving the country’s peace and order situation, particularly on his “remarkable accomplishments” in his campaigns against illegal drugs, insurgency, separatism and terrorism, corruption in government and criminality.
Arroyo asserted Friday that the ICC cannot pass judgment on Duterte because the illegal drug problem is an internal problem that the Philippine government had to address.
Another lawmaker, Surigao del Sur 2nd District Rep. Johnny Pimentel, said there is no clear evidence linking Duterte to the extrajudicial killings.
Both lawmakers argue the ICC no longer has jurisdiction over the Philippines since it already withdrew from the ICC, a sentiment echoed by no less than President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.
"I do not see what their jurisdiction is. I feel that we have in our police, in our judiciary, a good system. We do not need assistance from any outside entity, the Philippines is a sovereign nation and we are not colonies anymore of this former imperialist," he said Saturday.
However, Article 127 of the Rome Statute, which created and governs proceedings at the ICC, requires states who withdraw from the ICC to continue cooperating with the international tribunal.
“A State shall not be discharged, by reason of its withdrawal, from the obligations arising from this Statute while it was a Party to the Statute, including any financial obligations which may have accrued. Its withdrawal shall not affect any cooperation with the Court in connection with criminal investigations and proceedings in relation to which the withdrawing State had a duty to cooperate and which were commenced prior to the date on which the withdrawal became effective, nor shall it prejudice in any way the continued consideration of any matter which was already under consideration by the Court prior to the date on which the withdrawal became effective,” it states.
The Philippines ratified the Rome Statute in November 2011.
Former ICC Prosecutor Fatuo Bensouda announced the opening of a preliminary examination on the situation in the Philippines in February 2018, prompting then-President Duterte to withdraw from the ICC which became effective more than a year later in March 2019.
The Supreme Court has also said the Philippines is still obliged to cooperate in the criminal proceedings before the ICC, even as it junked petitions seeking to challenge Duterte’s unilateral withdrawal from the international tribunal.