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Palace: ICC will reject drug probe

MJ Blancaflor



Malacañang on Wednesday expressed confidence the International Criminal Court (ICC) will reject its chief prosecutor’s request to launch an investigation into President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug campaign.

Duterte’s spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque said the probe won’t proceed since the majority of the information cited in the preliminary examination supposedly came from news reports, and that the government would refuse to cooperate with any investigation the ICC may launch.

On Monday, former ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, whose term ended today, formally asked The Hague-based court to open a full investigation into the alleged “crimes against humanity” committed under the administration’s anti-narcotics drive.

“We are confident it will not prosper beyond this stage because in the first place, you need cooperation of the state if you are going to resort to a case buildup. But right now, all (it has) is hearsay information,” Roque told ANC in an interview.

He added that the ICC’s pre-trial chamber would likely deny Bensouda’s request due to lack of forensic evidence and primary documents.

“As a lawyer, we know that media sources are considered hearsay. We need to present people who have actual personal knowledge of events to prove particularly criminal liability, which is proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Roque, a human rights lawyer before becoming the Palace mouthpiece.

“Without resorting to forensic examination, without resorting to primary documents, relying only on media reports, she came out with a fantastic conclusion that almost all of those killed were, in fact, nanlaban (engaged policemen in battle),” he added.

The Palace official maintained that the President would not work with the ICC for any investigation on his drug war.

Roque reiterated that Bensouda’s call for the probe is “barred by the principle of complementarity,” which states the ICC can mount an investigation if a state is willing or unable to do so.

The Philippines, he said, does not need foreign entities to probe alleged human rights violations since the country’s judicial processes are functioning. He cited the ongoing investigations of the Department of Justice (DoJ) on the drug-related deaths.

Roque also rejected Bensouda’s claim that there was a reasonable basis to believe that the campaign spawned murder, torture, and the infliction of serious physical injury and mental harm.

He said such crimes against humanity only occur if there was a systemic attack against civilians, arguing that it was not the case for Duterte’s drug war since the deaths were merely “collateral damage”.

“The reality is the alleged killings arising from the drug war were not intended to target civilians. They were collateral damage, so to speak, arising from valid police operations,” Roque said.

Bishop Broderick Pabillo, the apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila, said the Duterte administration should cooperate with the ICC investigation.

“Accountability is part of democracy. What we know is that the country’s officials are stewards. They do not own the country. It was merely under their care,” Pabillo said in a press conference.

“If they did nothing wrong, why are they refusing to participate?” said Pabillo, a vocal critic of Duterte’s brutal approach in the anti-drug campaign.

The DoJ is now evaluating records of 52 out of the 7,884 people killed in police operations. The review has been ongoing for a year, but no complaint has been filed as a result.

Justice Secretary Menardo Gueverra previously said that “in more than half of the records reviewed, the law enforcement agents involved failed to follow standard protocols pertaining to coordination with other agencies and the processing of the crime scene.”