Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said there is nothing wrong in not rejoining the International Criminal Court (ICC), stressing that even the superpowers are not members of the world investigating body.
Remulla pointed this out in his first press conference yesterday — both face to face and online — saying it is not fair for former Senator Leila de Lima to say that it is a wrong call for President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to keep the Philippines out of the ICC.
Remulla said that even the United States, Russia and China are not members of the ICC but they are not being labeled as pariah in the world.
“The US, Russia and China are not members but they are not Pariah to other nations. It’s our choice not to join, hindi natin kailangan sumabay sa uso (We don’t have to go with the flow),” Remulla said.
He said that it is not fair for the former senator to say that the current Department of Justice (DoJ) cannot do its job saying it’s too bias of her.
As for the investigation of the cases involving the war on drugs of the former administration, they will do everything to get to the bottom of it.
“Whoever it is, who are involved in the killing, wala kaming sinasanto (we are not condoning anyone)” he said.
Remulla rebutted the claim of De Lima that she doubted local courts are able to properly deliver justice to the families of those slain in the name of former President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody drug war, especially for those falsely accused of being involved in the illegal drug trade.
Functioning judicial system
He said the judicial system of the country is functioning well and people who want justice can just go directly to the DoJ, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and other law enforcement agencies.
He said they know their responsibilities and they will definitely pursue cases as long as they have not yet reached the prescription period.
The problem, according to Remulla, is that witnesses are reluctant to pursue the cases involving the said drug war killing.
“Witnesses should come forward and testify in court,” he said.
On the issue of extrajudicial killings, the DoJ said the state, through its duly constituted authorities, have adequately provided institutional measures to address the occurrences of such even in the past administrations.
As early as 2007, then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, through AO 181, created a Task Force against political violence. This is to mobilize government agencies and non-government groups to curb violence and killings.
The DoJ said under AO 211, the whole-of-government approach was adopted where different agencies were tasked to address these occurrences not only through focused and vigorous prosecution but through programs to care and protect communities victimized by violence with the strategic deployment of law enforcement agents, and promotion of culture opposed to violence through multi-sectoral cooperation.
Thereafter, additional measures against the perpetrators of violence were institutionalized by government, under then-President Benigno C. Aquino III, through AO 35 creating the Inter-Agency Committee (IAC) against extra-legal killings, disappearances and other violators of the right to life and security of persons. Additionally, AO 1 was issued to focus on the protection of media workers against violence.
Since the IAC was created in 2012, it has taken the effort to build up cases for 295 extra-legal killings. However, the lack of witnesses has greatly hampered the swift prosecution of cases especially when the occurrence is attributable to non-state agents such as armed groups and lawless elements.
Remulla said it worth noting that majority of extra-legal killings are not perpetrated by state operatives but are attributable to armed groups, including local terrorist groups and other lawless elements.
“It should be noted that because of the whole government approach, the extra-legal killings in the last two years are already few and far between,” he said.
Based on records, there are no enforced disappearances and alleged torture cases in the last five years.
Insofar as alleged criminal case attributable to uniformed personnel, criminal cases have proceeded and at least 18 Police and AFP personnel have been convicted for murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.
The DoJ said 17 other cases against civilians have led to convictions meted out reclusion perpetua.
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