Back in 2017, two separate complaints for alleged human rights violations were filed against President Rodrigo Duterte before the International Criminal Court (ICC) based in The Netherlands.
Former senator Antonio Trillanes IV, who is a biased critic of the president, and Atty. Jude Sabio, a relatively unknown lawyer back then, instituted the cases.
The ICC prosecutor, a female African lawyer named Fatou Bensouda, conducted a one-sided preliminary investigation and, thereafter, sweepingly concluded that the ICC should go the Philippines to investigate Duterte and his government.
President Duterte protested the ICC’s affront to Philippine sovereignty, which Bensouda summarily ignored. That prompted the President to withdraw the Philippines from the Rome Statute, the multilateral treaty that created the ICC. Manila withdrew in May 2018, and pursuant to the provisions of the treaty, the withdrawal took effect in May 2019.
Experts in International Law maintain that by reason of Manila’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute, the ICC has lost whatever perceived jurisdiction it has over the cases filed against President Duterte. In other words, whatever ruling the ICC dishes out against Manila is, legally speaking, unenforceable against the Philippines. To insist otherwise is like charging a person for membership dues in a country club he is not a member of.
Notwithstanding Manila’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute, Bensouda insists on taking cognizance of the complaints filed against Duterte. She claims that since the complaints against President Duterte were filed in the ICC prior to Manila’s official withdrawal from the Rome Statute, she can investigate the cases.
Bensouda’s excuse conflicts with a separate ruling of the ICC in a case filed against President Xi Jinping of Communist China in the ICC by ex-Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and former Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario. They accused Xi of committing crimes against humanity for Beijing’s expansionist activities in the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines in the South China Sea. Their case was dismissed outright by the ICC on the ground that Communist China is not a signatory to the Rome Statute.
That ruling should be enough precedent for Bensouda to lay off the cases against President Duterte, but the egotistical prosecutor refused to budge.
Two weeks ago, Atty. Sabio withdrew his complaint in the ICC. He revealed that the allegations in his complaint were politicized fabrications designed to discredit President Duterte, and that the political foes of the President led by Trillanes, the hollow Vice President Leni Robredo and detained Sen. Leila de Lima were the architects of the scheme.
Sabio said he did not want to be used by Trillanes and his group. He also revealed that Trillanes failed to pay the full amount of attorney’s fees promised to him.
Obviously, Sabio’s revelation has the effect of both invalidating his complaint against President Duterte, and discrediting whatever is left of Trillanes’ complaint against the President.
All that should have warranted the immediate dismissal of the ICC cases. After all, how can the ICC proceed any further on the basis of an invalidated complaint, and another that has been discredited by a similarly situated complainant?
Instead of dismissing the entire proceedings in the light of Sabio’s withdrawal, Bensouda insisted on pursuing the remaining case, the one filed by Trillanes, against President Duterte, on the lame excuse that there are enough remaining “facts” on record to justify the investigation of the President.
What’s wrong with Bensouda?
Some Europeans believe that Bensouda has a personal vendetta against any government that will not hesitate to use force in its war against drug syndicates. In 2011, her son faced drug raps in the United States, and was killed outside a bar in America in 2017.
Bensouda’s stubborn insistence of pursuing the sole remaining but manifestly discredited case against President Duterte is, in itself, already a violation of the human rights of the President. By golly, if there should be any investigation Bensouda should seriously pursue, it should be an investigation of herself.
In the meantime, Trillanes and his cohorts have a lot of explaining to do for creating this international mess, especially considering that they were exposed by their own erstwhile political ally.