ICC case droops with Kian verdict

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SUPPORTERS light candles for Kian Lloyd de los Santos. AP

The Caloocan City Regional Trial Court’s verdict against three policemen found guilty of killing teenager Kian de los Santos at the height of President Duterte’s war on drugs has effectively extinguished the complaint against the Chief Executive before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

This was relayed by former presidential spokesman Harry Roque on Tuesday. Roque said the verdict is proof of a working justice system in the country, contrary to claims by his critics that Mr. Duterte has been forcing a culture of impunity in his anti-drugs campaign.

De los Santos, a 17-year-old high school student, was killed on the evening of 16 August 2017 by Police Officer 3 Arnel Oares, PO1 Jeremias Pereda and PO1 Jerwin Cruz during an anti-drug operation in Baesa in Caloocan.

Kian’s case became controversial when a CCTV footage from the local barangay hall and accounts by witnesses differed from official police reports. The police claimed the boy was a drug pusher.

But on 29 November, Caloocan City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 125 found Oares, Pereda and Cruz guilty of killing De los Santos.

Despite ensuring support to policemen who will encounter obstacles during anti-drugs operations, Mr. Duterte said he will not pardon the three policemen, with the President saying: “I don’t protect murderers.”

“For you (policemen) to murder, that’s not covered (by my support),” the Chief Executive said.

“What I said was I will defend to death my soldiers and policemen if they commit acts which would be considered criminal but done in the performance of their duties. I won’t leave them, otherwise my soldiers and policemen would kill me,” her added.

This, Roque said, is proof that the Philippine justice system is alive and is not stifled nor controlled by outside forces.

He also said this will weaken the case filed before the ICC.

“The ICC may only exercise jurisdiction over a complaint when national courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute criminals,” Roque said. “In this case, Judge Rodolfo Azucena Jr. has clearly demonstrated to all and sundry that our courts are more than able and more than willing to take strong legal action against criminals.”

“As we can clearly see in Kian’ case, our own criminal justice system is functioning effectively. Thus, the Rome Statute’s legal requirement for the ICC prosecutor to proceed with the preliminary examination of the complaint against Mr. Duterte has not been met and won’t be met,” he added.

After a six-month trial, Azucena last week meted out prison terms of up to 40 years to the three police officers.

The Hague, Netherlands-based ICC was established as “a court of last resort” in extreme cases wherein national courts have become totally ineffective in providing justice to victims, according to Roque.

“We are now counting on the ICC prosecutor to call off its preliminary inquiry. There’s absolutely no need for the ICC to waste time and resources on the complaint against Mr. Duterte,” he said.

“In fact, the matters in complaint, as proven by the swift resolution of Kian’s case, would be best addressed in courts here at home through the proper filing of murder or homicide charges, as the case may be, against all individuals, including rogue agents of the law, found complicit in every wrongful death that transpired during a drug raid or arrest,” he added.

The complaint before the ICC accused Mr. Duterte of crimes against humanity for deaths that have occurred as a result of the Philippine government’s war on illegal drugs.

Mr. Duterte on Monday said he will not pardon the officers convicted of killing De los Santos in a purported drug operation.

“Of course not. Maybe one million years from now,” Mr. Duterte said, when asked by reporters if a pardon from him may be forthcoming.

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