ICC "tool for political prosecution" if to proceed probe vs Duterte - Palace
Malacanang said on Sunday that if the International Criminal Court would pursue with the investigation against President Rodrigo Duterte, this would prove that the body was created to be a "tool for political prosecution."
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo issued the statement as the Philippine withdrawal from the ICC took effect Sunday, March 17.
"Should the ICC proceed with its undertakings relative to the Philippines and violate the provisions of the instrument which created it in the process, it can only mean that it is bent on interfering with the sovereignty of our Republic. Such intrusion can only validate the theory of the countries that withdrew their membership and those that do not want to join it that the ICC continues to exercise unaccountable prosecutorial powers and has become a tool for political prosecution thereby a threat to the national sovereignty of countries," he said.
Panelo, who is also the chief presidential legal counsel, reiterated that the Philippines could not be considered leaving the ICC because the Rome Statute creating it never became effective in the country.
"Our position on the matter remains clear, unequivocal and inflexible: The Philippines never became a State Party to the Rome Statute which created the ICC. As far as we are concerned, this tribunal is non-existent and its actions a futile exercise," he said.
While the Philippine Senate ratified the Rome Statute during the previous administration, Duterte has said it did not take effect due to the absence of its publication in the Official Gazette.
"Detractors of the President are quick to harp on the alleged injustices in the Philippines.They appear not to know or simply ignore the fact that the jurisdictional crimes of the ICC are already covered by our domestic laws," Panelo said.
He said that anyone who seeks redress for grievances on any kind of injustice is free to file a complaint with the local courts using Philippine laws.
Citing Article 127 of the Rome Statute, Panelo said, "a withdrawal shall not affect any cooperation with the Court in connection with criminal investigations and proceedings in relation to which the withdrawing State had a duty to cooperate and which were commenced prior to the date on which the withdrawal became effective, nor shall it prejudice in any way the continued consideration of any matter which was already under consideration by the Court prior to the date on which the withdrawal became effective."
"Granting arguendo that the Philippines is a State Party to the Rome Statute and its withdrawal therefrom is made pursuant to its Article 127, the condition sine qua non before ICC can exercise jurisdiction over State Parties is their unwillingness or inability to carry out the investigation and prosecution of covered crimes. This is the principle of complementarity," he added.
The official explained that the Philippine judiciary could not be considered unwilling or unable to prosecute as all the local courts, including the administrative bodies, are functioning.
He cited the case of teenager Kian delos Santos wherein the three policemen who were allegedly behind his murder were convicted by the Caloocan court.
"There is therefore absolutely no basis for the ICC to continue whatever it started against the President or the Philippines. Nor is there any basis for the opposition and the critics' perorations on the subject," he stressed.
At least two complaints have been filed against Duterte before the ICC for allegedly committing crimes against humanity due to his administration's bloody war on illegal drugs.
Government data showed that over 5,000 individuals have already been killed in the anti-drug operations since July 2016 shortly after Duterte assumed the presidency. Celerina Monte/DMS