Panelo: Duterte unfazed by ICC probe reopening

ICC or any international court can only come in if a particular country doesn’t have the capability to investigate or is unwilling to do an investigation

former President Rodrigo Duterte | Daily Tribune file photo

If found guilty of crimes against humanity, former President Rodrigo Duterte will only serve his sentence in a Philippine prison.

Former presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo had this to say on Sunday after the International Criminal Court authorized the reopening of a probe into the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.

“The former President has reiterated his irreversible and principled position that the ICC neither has jurisdiction over his person nor on this country — and that it can do its worst, but (he) will be unmoved by it,” Panelo told the Daily Tribune.

He added: “If he is guilty of any crime against humanity, then he should be prosecuted by a Filipino prosecutor, and heard by a Filipino judge.”

The former presidential legal adviser said the case against the former Philippine leader “has been politicized from its very inception.”

The critics, he said, only wanted to undermine the success of the government’s efforts to end the illegal drugs trade.

“It is intended to demonize him internationally and taint the success of the war against illegal drugs that placed at peril a generation of Filipinos and created dysfunctional families,” he added.

Like the Department of Justice’s position, Panelo, a veteran lawyer, maintained that under international law, the ICC or any international court can only come in if a particular country doesn’t have the capability to investigate or is unwilling to do an investigation.

“We have repeatedly said it never acquired jurisdiction over our country because the constitutional requirement for making it effective is wanting, and even assuming it initially acquired jurisdiction, it lost it when the country formally withdrew its membership,” he said.

Staying out

In March 2019, the Philippine government officially withdrew from the ICC after The Hague-based court launched a preliminary examination of the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs.

The ICC has authorized prosecutor Karim Khan to reopen the investigation on possible rights abuses and crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the Duterte administration.

In August last year or barely one month into his administration, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. indicated that the Philippine government, under his leadership, will not have the intention of rejoining the ICC.

DoJ Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla has maintained that ICC lacks jurisdiction to conduct a probe into the previous administration’s anti-narcotics drive.

In August last year, a panel led by the DoJ started reviewing the 5,655 anti-drug operations that resulted in deaths to determine whether or not to file charges against the police officers involved.

Justice Assistant Secretary Mico Clavano, in a media forum over the weekend, said the DoJ does not welcome ICC’s decision to authorize the resumption of the probe, stressing the Philippines’ has a “working justice system.”

He added it is necessary to resist ICC’s entry to Manila to “protect its sovereignty.”

The Philippine government, he said, has been cooperating with the ICC and reported the progress of its investigation on the Duterte administration’s war on drugs and submitted documents, case records, and investigative files on 8 September 2022.

A total of 6,252 drug suspects were reportedly killed in legitimate anti-drug operations, according to government statistics.

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