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Palace on ICC prosecutor’s claim on drug war: Legally erroneous

Malacañang on Tuesday refuted the assessment of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) prosecutor that there is "reasonable basis" to believe that crimes against humanity were committed under President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

Speaking at a news conference, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque described ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s appreciation of the incidents linked to the drug war as “legally erroneous.”

“We do not agree with her. It’s legally erroneous dahil mayroon po tayong minimum gravity na required. Hindi po lahat ng krimen ay nililitis sa ICC,” said Roque, a former law professor.

“Bahala sila kung anong gusto nilang gawin. Hindi po natin kinikilala ang hurisdiksyon ng ICC.”

Malacañang has repeatedly cited the principle of complementarity in which the ICC can only investigate allegations of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes if the domestic courts are unable or unwilling to do so.

Duterte has also said the ICC had no jurisdiction over him, arguing that the Rome Statute—the treaty that established the ICC—is not enforceable in the Philippines because it was not published in a government publication or any commercial newspaper.

The ICC prosecutor is eyeing to finish the preliminary examination on the Philippine situation in the first half of 2021.

But Roque expressed confidence that the ICC will apply the April 2019 decision of its pre-trial chamber that prevented the prosecutor from conducting an investigation into allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan, which cited, among others, the lack of cooperation from parties and the “need for the Court to use its resources prioritizing activities that would have better chances to succeed.”

“Mayroon na pong desisyon ang ICC, na hindi sasayangin ng ICC ang panahon ng kanyang mga opisyales sa mga kaso na hindi naman po uusad dahil walang kooperasyon,” Roque said. “Sayang lang ang pera at ang oras.”

That decision, however, was reversed in March this year by the ICC appeals chamber, allowing the prosecutor to proceed with the investigation.

Bensouda started a preliminary examination of lawyer Jude Sabio’s allegations regarding the anti-narcotics campaign in February 2018.

Weeks later, Duterte announced the Philippines was withdrawing from the ICC, a move that was challenged by opposition senators before the Supreme Court. The exit took effect in March 2019 but the preliminary examination continued.

It was reported early this year that Sabio withdrew his communication, but the ICC said such an action would have no impact in the ongoing preliminary examination. — RSJ, GMA News