By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Alyssa Nicole O. Tan, Reporters
THE PHILIPPINES will talk with other countries on human rights and democracy issues as long as it is in line with its national interests, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. said on Wednesday, as the country continued to distance itself from the International Criminal Court (ICC) amid its drug war probe.
“The Philippines will continue to engage countries bilaterally and in international platforms on issues concerning democracy, human rights and good governance, as long as these engagements are constructive, based on facts, and respectful of Philippine sovereignty,” he said in a video message at the US-led Summit for Democracy.
“The Philippines will sustain its tradition of open, constructive and active engagement on human rights on matters that will meaningfully contribute towards reinforcing the sinews of democracy and of freedom,” Mr. Marcos said. “We enable our people to flourish and meet our national aspirations to be a modern prosperous middle-income society by 2040.”
Human Rights Watch slammed the Southeast Asian nation for its “double talk on democracy and human rights.”
“It cannot say it upholds those values but at the same time reject, ridicule and threaten accountability mechanisms like the ICC,” Elaine Pearson, Asia director at the global watchdog, said in an e-mailed statement.
“The international community should not be fooled by the Philippine government’s duplicity and rhetoric. The Marcos administration’s avowed commitments to protect human rights and fight impunity will be shown by whether it cooperates with the ICC’s investigation,” she added.
The Hague-based tribunal earlier rejected the Philippine government’s plea to stop its investigation of ex-President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s anti-illegal drug campaign.
In an eight-page decision dated March 2, the court’s Appeals Chamber said the Philippines had failed to persuade it to suspend the probe. The ICC said its investigation should not prevent the Philippines from continuing its own probe of rogue cops in the state’s deadly war on drugs.
During the summit, the Philippines reiterated that it does not recognize the ICC’s authority to investigate it.
“The Philippines joined the United States and several other countries around the world in endorsing the Summit for Democracy Declaration, as a testament to our unwavering commitment to upholding our democratic values and principles and to strengthening our democratic institutions,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The Philippines, however, disassociates itself from the declaration’s reference to the International Criminal Court,” it added.
The declaration, endorsed by more than 70 countries, affirmed their political commitments to ensure accountability for human rights violations and abuses; support those who stand for freedom and reject aggression including in Ukraine, and prevent and combat corruption.
They also vowed to fight all forms of discrimination and exclusion, advance technology for democracy and defend their territories against transnational threats including foreign malign influence and information manipulation and support free and fair elections.
Under the declaration, nations “acknowledge the important role played by the ICC as a permanent and impartial tribunal complementary to national jurisdictions in advancing accountability for the most serious crimes under international law.”
“While the current language provides a qualifier that the ICC’s role may be acknowledged provided it abides by the principle of complementarity, the Philippines’ earlier decision to withdraw from the ICC was precisely because the court failed the test of complementarity,” DFA said.
The Philippines withdrew from the ICC in March 2018 under Mr. Duterte, who said there was “a concerted effort on the part of the United Nations special rapporteurs to paint me as a ruthless and heartless violator of human rights who allegedly caused thousands of extrajudicial killings.”
The government estimates that more than 6,000 suspected drug dealers had been killed in police operations. Human rights groups say as many as 30,000 suspects died.
“The Philippine government does not recognize the ICC’s jurisdiction and affirms that the Philippines has the jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute crimes, including those allegedly committed in the context of the country’s anti-illegal drug campaign,” DFA said.
DFA said the country maintains that the rule of law and accountability is fully functioning through its criminal justice system.
The ICC reopened its investigation into drug-related killings and so-called crimes against humanity in January as it was dissatisfied with Philippine efforts to probe human rights abuses during the period.
DFA said human rights-related dialogues and platforms “must not be politicized and targeted against specific countries,” as it asked global leaders to be constructive and inclusive.
“The Philippines upholds its commitment to fight impunity for atrocity crimes, notwithstanding the country’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute, especially since the Philippines has a national legislation punishing atrocity crimes,” DFA said.
More than 30 member-states of the United Nations Human Rights Council in November urged the Philippines to do something about extralegal killings in connection with Mr. Duterte’s anti-illegal drug campaign.
The Philippines has accepted 200 recommendations from the council, including investigating extralegal killings and protecting journalists and activists.