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Palace: ICC has no jurisdiction over Philippine gov't despite request to defer drug probe

Malacañang on Saturday maintained that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has no jurisdiction over the Philippine government despite its request for the Hague-based court to defer its probe into the alleged crimes against humanity in President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.

“We reiterate that it is the position of the Philippine government that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has no jurisdiction over it,” acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles said in a statement.

The ICC temporarily suspended its investigation into the Duterte administration’s drug war days after the Philippine government requested to defer to its government's investigation of its nationals for killings in the context of the campaign against illegal drugs.  

Philippine Ambassador to the Netherlands Eduardo Malaya in a letter to ICC prosecutor Karim Khan cited the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) referral to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) of 52 cases in which the Philippine National Police-Internal Affairs Service found administrative liability on the part of the concerned personnel.

Despite maintaining that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the Philippines, Nograles said, “This, however, does not preclude the government from communicating with the ICC, and it should be stressed that the government's communication to the ICC was conditioned on the fact that in making that communication the Philippine government was not waiving its position regarding the ICC's lack of jurisdiction.”

Nonetheless, the Palace welcomes the “judiciousness” of the new ICC prosecutor, who has “deemed it fit to give the matter a fresh look.”

Malacañang had said it would be difficult for the ICC to “uncover the truth” as it insisted that the Philippine government will not cooperate in the investigation owing to the country’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC, in 2019.

“[W]e trust that the matter will be resolved in favor of the exoneration of our government and the recognition of the vibrancy of our justice system,” Nograles said.

The National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) urged the ICC to reject requests to defer its probe into the Duterte administration’s war on drugs and instead continue its ongoing investigation into the alleged crimes against humanity. 

“We ask the ICC not to allow itself to be swayed by the claims now being made by the Duterte administration. These are so contrary to what is happening on the ground and should never be taken at face value,” the NUPL said.

Human rights advocacy group Centerlaw likewise asked the ICC to continue with the investigation. 

Centerlaw said that by invoking the right to primacy jurisdiction under the Rome Statute, “the Philippine government but unwittingly acknowledges how it does indeed fall within the ICC’s jurisdiction—a matter that Duterte himself has long denied.”

“As the legal representative of victims of grave human rights violations, and as counsel for petitioners in the 2017 writ of amparo petition pending before the Philippine Supreme Court, Centerlaw is of the firm opinion that the Philippine government’s 10 November 2021 Notice pays lip service to the tens of thousands of lives lost in the ‘drug war,’ and to the families and communities they leave behind,” it said.

“Amidst a culture of Dutertian impunity, it is clear that the Philippine government’s request for deferral, upon the application of the OTP, should be overridden by the Pre-Trial Chamber pursuant to Article 18(2) of the Rome Statute,” it added. —KG/VBL, GMA News