Presidential aspirant Senator Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa need not concern himself with the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) investigation into the administration’s drug war, President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday.
“I said, ‘Don’t worry,’” he recalled. “I told Bato… keep quiet there and point at me [and say], ‘Duterte ordered it. Whatever is in your list, that was ordered by Duterte.’”
The Chief Executive, however, reiterated that he won’t allow himself to be prosecuted by foreign courts.
“If there is any person who is going to prison, it would be me, but it should be a Filipino court manned by a Filipino judge and me prosecuted by a Filipino prosecutor,” he said.
The President also told the ICC that he was not hiding any information on his drug war.
He made his remarks in a speech before national and local officials at the joint meeting of the anti-communist insurgency task forces in Quezon Province.
Last month, the ICC authorized an official probe into alleged crimes against humanity committed as part of the administration’s campaign against illegal drugs.
Duterte and De la Rosa were both named by ICC former top prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on an alleged government policy to perpetrate extrajudicial killings. The said report was submitted to the court’s pre-trial chamber.
De la Rosa served as police chief from 2016 to 2018, or when the administration carried out “Oplan Tokhang,” the President’s campaign against narcotics where thousands were reported killed just a few months after its launch.
The neophyte lawmaker, who is also the standard-bearer of the ruling PDP Laban in the May 2022 elections, vowed earlier this week to protect himself and Duterte from the ICC investigation if he gets elected as the next Philippine president.
De la Rosa said he would only allow the ICC investigators to come to the Philippines to “observe” the government’s efforts against the drug trade as he denied claims that crimes against humanity took place during police operations.
The government’s own drug war review showed that 154 anti-narcotics operatives allegedly violated state procedures during the bloody campaign.
The Department of Justice (DoJ) on Wednesday publicized a 21-page report which cast doubt on claims of some policemen that they had acted in self-defense when they shot and killed suspects during drug operations. It covered 50 police operations carried out since 2016 or during the start of Duterte’s term.
Malacañang on Thursday rejected calls for another drug war review, saying the government will focus its efforts on building cases against the 154 officials cited in the DoJ report.
“There is probably no need to make another demand for additional cases to be examined,” presidential spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque said, speaking partly in Filipino. “The DoJ will continue [its review].”
Roque expressed confidence that more evidence will be gathered against the policemen who allegedly violated the law.
In a separate briefing, Justice Undersecretary Adrian Sugay said the department will continue with its investigation and will “review and give proper recommendations” on cases that it had studied.
He added that the ICC could use the information from the review, noting that the report is an “open-source information.”
“This information table, this matrix, if they want, they can use them,” Sugay said. “That is up to the ICC.”
Roque, meanwhile, claimed that the DoJ report had shown that the President does not tolerate police officers who might have violated human rights, adding that the review had demonstrated the government’s efforts in fulfilling its duty to protect human rights.
“The decision of the DoJ proves that we are not soft because we will be filing cases against those involved in the cases,” he said.
Rights groups, however, downplayed the findings, calling on the justice department to go beyond the “mere filing of cases” against policemen.
They also claimed that the information provided by the DoJ “barely scratched” the surface of alleged abuses in the drug war, noting that the 50 cases investigated was just one percent of the 6,100 drug war deaths logged since 2016.