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Exercise in futility

Guevarra said the conviction made in local cases rebutted the insinuation of impunity by critics of the war on illegal drugs.



That the International Criminal Court (ICC) has long targeted President Rodrigo Duterte was revealed by the late lawyer Jude Sabio.

Before his falling out with incurable destabilizer Antonio Trillanes IV, Sabio, who filed the complaint before the ICC, against President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature war on drugs admitted meeting with then prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

Sabio left the stable of Trillanes after a bitter argument over the lawyer’s retainer fee.

In a slip of the tongue during an interview where Sabio seemed to have let go of his emotions and reason, Sabio said he got assurance from Bensouda that a formal probe would be made on the case he filed.

That interview happened in December 2019 or a full two years prior to Bensouda’s coup de grace before retirement last June of recommending a full probe that the ICC under her successor Karim Khan approved.

In December 2018, the ICC said in its annual report that its Office of the Prosecutor had been conducting a thorough factual and legal assessment of the information available to reach a reasonable basis to believe that the alleged crimes fell within the jurisdiction of the court.

In April 2017, Sabio submitted to the ICC a formal communication on the drug war killings, followed by supplemental information from Trillanes and his cohort Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano. They alleged multiple killings by the so-called Davao Death Squad, while thousands more were killed in the war on drugs since President Duterte became president.

The action of the ICC in proceeding with the probe was highly irregular, as Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said there is no need for the President to officially respond to whatever complaints as well as charges filed against him before the ICC.

Contrary to the claims of Trillanes and his minions, the ICC cannot take jurisdiction over the case since it cannot be denied that the justice system in the country is working, according to Guevarra.

“As far as our country is concerned, the ICC cannot exercise its jurisdiction to investigate, much less to prosecute, because our own investigative agencies and judicial bodies are functioning effectively, albeit slowly,” he indicated.

“Casualties in the anti-drug campaign are not comparable to genocide or any crime against humanity, by any stretch of imagination or twisting of settled international law doctrine,” he added.

Guevarra said the conviction made in local cases rebutted the insinuation of impunity by critics of the war on illegal drugs, which was a basis for filing of complaints against Duterte before the ICC.

A number of policemen charged with the crime of having murdered the teenager Kian de los Santos and for planting drugs to make him look like a drug runner, were convicted, a proof that cases filed on extrajudicial killings are moving.

President Duterte and his legal aces also cited the principle of complementarity, wherein the ICC can only investigate allegations of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes if domestic courts are unable or unwilling to do so.

Chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo said courts are functioning. “So how can ICC take jurisdiction? We are willing and we are capable. In fact, it shows we have a robust judicial system. We have been prosecuting people and we have convictions, as well as acquittals.”

Considering the elections next year, the move of the ICC was a sell out to the desperate aspirations of the yellow liberals to return to power.