By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter
THE Philippine government will follow the United States’ policy on “denying or revoking” visas for members of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Malacañang said on Monday.
“Kasama lahat ‘yun (That will all be part [of the policy]),” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said at a news conference at the Palace on Monday when asked if the Philippine government, like the US, will also “deny or revoke” visas for ICC members who will pursue an actual investigation on President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s drug war.
“That includes everything to stop them from committing any acts that will be violative of our laws,” he added.
Citing news reports last Sunday, Mr. Panelo said: “I think the US State Department warn[ed] the personnel and staff of the ICC [that] if they pursue their investigations of certain heads of state of other countries, they will not be given or… their visas will not be renewed because as far as the US government is concerned, it (the ICC) is politically persecuting those subject of investigation.”
Mr. Panelo said ICC members can still visit the country as “tourists,” but they will be “deported” if they begin gathering data and interviewing persons in relation to the complaint about Mr. Duterte’s nationwide war on drugs campaign.
“Well, they can come here as guests, visitors. Puwede yun (that is allowed); pero (but) any move that will be deemed as a violation of our laws, eh may problema sila dun (they will have a problem),” he also said.
The ICC investigators, Mr. Panelo further said, “cannot undertake anything in connection with jurisdictional exercise on what they have in mind because that’s in violation of our laws.”
“We will not allow any attempt at interfering with the sovereignty of this country,” he added.
Mr. Panelo also maintained that the ICC has “never acquired jurisdiction over our country for the reason that… the requirement of publication imposed by law is not observed.”
He said there has to be a publication of the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC, in a newspaper of general circulation or the Official Gazette.
He then said that “even if there was ratification by Congress or by the Senate on that particular subject, still a law cannot be enforced unless you comply with the requirement.”
At the same briefing, Mr. Panelo said the reported extrajudicial killings (EJKs) have no impact on the confidence of foreign investors who want to do business in the Philippines.
According to the President’s spokesman, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia, and Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez have said the issue of human rights violations or extrajudicial killis has “never” been raised “during their meetings with investors and other conferences relative to the business investments [in] this country.”
He also claimed that foreign direct investment inflows to the Philippines have already increased. “If you compare that to the previous administration, ang laki ng ating nakuhang (we got so much) investment[s] from the foreign side,” he said.
For their part, a delegation of international lawyers urged President Rodrigo R. Duterte and his administration to avoid attacking lawyers publicly to stop extrajudicial killing and killings of lawyers.
“President Duterte and his administration should refrain from publicly attacking lawyers and instead publicly condemn all attacks against lawyer, prosecutors, and judges at all levels and in strong terms,” the lawyers recommended in their preliminary findings on the killing of lawyers in the Philippines.
It has been reported that at least 37 members of the legal profession have been killed due to exercise of their duties since Mr. Duterte assumed office in June 2016.
The latest lawyer killed is Rex Jasper Lopoz who was gunned down in Tagum City, Davao del Norte last March 13.
The lawyers also said that the government should “put an end to the practice of red-tagging and end public disclosure of drug lists.” — with Vann Marlo M. Villegas