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Philippines may not extend a lot of cooperation if ICC continues probe —SolGen Guevarra

The Philippine government may not be as cooperative with the International Criminal Court (ICC) pending the final ruling on its request to restart the probe into the drug war, Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra said Friday.

Guevarra issued the remark when asked about the possible legal recourse that the government would take should the ICC continue with its probe.

“We can appeal. The public can appeal the ruling that meron jurisdiction, admissible ‘yung Court, we can challenge that,” Guevarra said in an interview on CNN Philippines.

“In the meantime that there is no final ruling on administrability of the case or jurisdiction, I don’t think the Philippine government will extend a lot of cooperation to the ICC,” he later added.

The country on Thursday asked the ICC not to resume with its investigation into the drug war, insisting that the international tribunal has no jurisdiction over it.

According to Guevarra, the ICC has jurisdiction over certain crimes only, such as genocide, crimes of aggression, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

Guevarra said all of these, even crimes against humanity, are not applicable to the Philippines. He said murder, enslavement, extermination, and persecution fall under crimes against humanity.

A former Justice secretary, Guevarra also said the murder or the series of murders must be “a systematic attack against a civilian population.”

When asked if murder includes a systematic attack against those involved in drugs, Guevarra said it is not the definition of a crime against humanity.

“Ang drug war natin, it’s not even an attack. It’s a legitimate law enforcement operation. And if it’s an ‘attack,’ ‘yang attack na ‘yan is not against persons. It’s an attack against illegal activities,” he said.

(Our drug war is not even an attack. It’s a legitimate law enforcement operation. And if it’s an ‘attack,’ the attack is not against persons. It’s an attack against illegal activities.)

Despite this, Guevarra admitted not all anti-drug operations that ended in the death of suspect or suspects were legitimate.

“‘Yun nga ‘yung iniimbestigahan natin. Hindi naman ibig sabihin na kung may 6,000 persons na namatay, eh lahat ng 6,000 cases na ‘yan ay illegal or unlawful. In-isolate na natin,” he said.

(That’s what we are investigating. Just because 6,000 people died, it doesn't mean that all of them are illegal or unlawful. We have isolated them.)

Guevarra also said it is unfair to say that the country’s investigation into the drug war cases is not genuine.

“Genuine is a very relative term. From our point of view, we’re doing a genuine investigation. It may be slow. Maaring ‘yung output at this point in time ay ganito pa lang, but given enough time we will come up with results,” he said.

“Why would one say na hindi genuine ‘yan simply for the reason na as of this time, ito pa lang ‘yung output [this is only the output]. That’s not quite fair,” he added.

The Solicitor General stressed that the government is conducting a genuine investigation.

“We are willing and we are able to do this. But give us ample time,” he said.

When asked what he meant by “ample time” and if it meant “another five years,” Guevarra cited the investigation process.

“In the case of the investigation for a criminal offense, the preliminary investigation should last a few months. And if probable cause is found, then you file that in court. Now when you file that in court, we meet all the various problems and challenges,” he said.

The Philippines withdrew from the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, in March 2019 during the Duterte administration. Incumbent President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has said that the country has “no intention” in rejoining. —KBK, GMA News