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Palace maintains ICC has no jurisdiction over Philippines

Malacañang on Thursday maintained that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has no jurisdiction over the Philippines.

Interviewed on Unang Balita regarding the ICC's decision to authorize an investigation into the killings in the Philippines' war on drugs, chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo once again mentioned the country's withdrawal from the Rome Statute.

"Nilalabag nila ang ating karapatan [They are violating our rights], that's interference into our domestic affairs," Panelo said.

The Philippines officially withdrew from the Rome Statute — the treaty that established the ICC — on March 17, 2019.

In a statement on Wednesday, the ICC said that its Pre-Trial Chamber 1 has granted then-Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's June 14 request to probe crimes "allegedly committed on the territory of the Philippines between 1 November 2011 and 16 March 2019 in the context of the so-called 'war on drugs' campaign."

The ICC said that a "specific legal element of crime against humanity of murder" has been met with respect to Duterte's war on drugs in the period from July 1, 2016 — the day after President Rodrigo Duterte was sworn into office as chief executive — until March 16, 2019, the day before the Philippines formally exited the Rome Statute.

In a separate interview on Super Radyo dzBB, Panelo said ICC probers will not be allowed entry in the Philippines.

"They're doing acts in violation of our laws, how can they come in?" he said.

According to Panelo, the ICC could only conduct an investigation if the state has no functioning judicial system which, he said, is not the case in the Philippines.

"'Yung ating bansa, napakalusog ng judicial system. Alam natin na lahat ng mga kaso na hinahain napo-prosecute, meron tayong process na sinusunod," he said on Unang Balita.

(We have a healthy judicial system. Cases that are filed get prosecuted. We follow a process.)

He said for ICC to enter into the picture, it must be proven that the state is "unwilling" to prosecute suspects.

"At kung willing man ay wala silang kakayahang mag-prosecute [Or if they're willing, they do not have the capability to prosecute]," Panelo said.

He also said the Rome Statute is not enforceable in the Philippines because it was not published in the Philippine government publication.

"Yang Rome Statute, ever since that is not enforceable because from the very beginning hindi yan lumabas sa [it didn't come out in the] Official Gazette. And our civil law requires public case on the penal law or any law on the Official Gazette bago ito ipatutupad. Hindi nangyari yan [That didn't happen]," he said.

Panelo said there is "nothing new" with the latest development regarding the ICC.

"Hindi naman bago yan, talagang ever since pinagpipilitan nila [That's not new, ever since they are really hellbent on doing that]," he said.

Asked about the next action of the government in relation to the ICC probe, Panelo said the government will just let the international body do its investigation.

“Ano gagawin mo? Nag-withdraw na nga tayo, pumapasok pa sila. Eh 'di hayaan mo sila [What can you do? We've withdrawn from the Statute and yet they're still meddling with our affairs. So we'll just let them),” he said.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Watch said the ICC investigation is a "much-needed check" on Duterte.

In a statement on Thursday, HRW senior Philippines researcher Carlos Conde pointed out the families of those killed in the drug war, as well as the survivors, can now hope that perpetrators could be held accountable.

“The International Criminal Court’s decision to open an investigation into brutal crimes in the Philippines offers a much-needed check on President Rodrigo Duterte and his deadly 'war on drugs,'” he said.

“Victims' families and survivors have reason to hope that those responsible for crimes against humanity could finally face justice.”   — with Joviland Rita/KBK, GMA News