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Duterte’s chief drug war enforcer to shun ICC probe
By Alyssa Nicole O. Tan and John Victor D. Ordoñez, Reporters
FORMER President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s police chief on Monday said he would not cooperate with an International Criminal Court (ICC) probe of the Philippine government’s deadly war on drugs, saying he would rather get tried by a local court.
“We have our own criminal justice system that is working and functioning,” Ronald M. Dela Rosa, who is now a senator, said in a statement. “We do not need their interference into our domestic affairs.”
The Hague-based international court on July 14 gave the Philippines until Sept. 8 to comment on the ICC Office of the Prosecutor’s request to resume the investigation into alleged crimes against humanity by Mr. Duterte and his officials. It also allowed victims to make written submissions through their lawyers.
ICC prosecutors Karim Ahmed Khan and Colin Black were given until Sept. 22 to reply to the government’s response.
Mr. Dela Rosa separately told the ABS-CBN News Channel the ICC probe is an insult to the Philippine judicial system.
“You want to grill me in my own fire,” he said in Filipino. “I’m the No. 2 accused. Why would I agree to be under the ICC jurisdiction when we have our own Supreme Court that can try us if we really have done something wrong? They don’t know the problems of our country.”
The lawmaker, who enforced the state’s anti-illegal drug campaign as Mr. Duterte’s police chief, has said allowing the ICC probe is a “total infringement of our sovereignty.”
Neophyte Senator Robinhood Ferdinand “Robin” C. Padilla in a statement called the ICC probe foreign interference.
Last month, the Office of the Prosecutor sought to reopen the probe into Mr. Duterte’s anti-illegal drug campaign months after it was halted upon the Philippine government’s request.
In a 53-page request to the ICC pre-trial chamber, Mr. Khan said the Philippines had failed to show it investigated crimes related to the campaign.
He said the chamber should issue an order on an “expedited basis.” It should “receive any further observations it considers appropriate from victims and the government of the Philippines,” he added.
Senator Maria Lourdes Nancy S. Binay said the investigation should be allowed for transparency’s sake. “In the interest of transparency, if there really isn’t anything, then just let them tire of searching [for evidence],” she told reporters.
“Let us follow the legal process, and if the ICC really doesn’t have a personality, that is something maybe the Department of Justice can decide,” she said in mixed English and Filipino.
Senator Aquilino Martin L. Pimentel III, the presumptive minority leader, said the Hague-based tribunal should be allowed to decide autonomously as an independent international organization.
He advised the ICC to “decide once and for all on what you want to do so the Philippines can also react properly. We cannot react to a nonfinal decision by an outsider.”
“Let’s react to a final decision and action,” he said, adding that for now, the country should focus on problems such as poverty, a looming food crisis and rising energy costs, education and spiraling national debt.
The ICC suspended its investigation of the drug war in November as the Justice department and other agencies started looking at 52 cases involving policemen.
DOJ had only brought five of the 52 cases involving about 150 police officers to court since it started its own investigation in 2021.
Meanwhile, Solicitor General Menardo I. Guevarra said his office was weighing its options on how to deal with the ICC probe.
“The Office of the Solicitor General is considering several options, such as challenging the jurisdiction of the ICC/admissibility of the case, or continuing to leave our lines of communication with the ICC open,” he told reporters in a Viber message.
“We shall decide on our final course of action after consultations with the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Justice, international law experts and the Office of the President.”
Mr. Guevarra said he intends to consult with President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. about the potential resumption of the ICC investigation.
The ICC, which tries people charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression, was also set to probe vigilante-style killings in Davao City when Mr. Duterte was still its vice mayor and mayor.
Mr. Duterte canceled the Philippines’ membership in the international tribunal in 2018.
Data from the Philippine government released in June 2021 showed that at least 6,117 suspected drug dealers had been killed in police operations as of April 2021. Human rights groups estimate that as many as 30,000 suspects died.