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Tolentino to take up ICC investigation vs. Duterte with EU MPs

Senator Francis Tolentino will take up with visiting European Parliament members the proposed Senate resolution defending former President Rodrigo Duterte from an investigation by the International Criminal Court.

Tolentino, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, said members of his committee would meet the members of the European Parliament’s sub-committee on human rights on Wednesday.

“I will raise that tomorrow during the… special meeting of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights,” Tolentino said when asked to comment about the resolution Senator Robin Padilla filed in Duterte's defense.

“In effect, the members of the European Parliament, the members of the sub-committee on human rights will be resource persons coming to our house,” he added.

Asked if there were specific issues that would be tackled during the meeting, Tolentino said "I think it has something to do with… everything about human rights.”

“Including what they’ve been posturing so far and our Lower House already… I think they're hearing the resolutions concerning ICC. Lahat na iyon siguro (Perhaps, all those things)," said Tolentino, the committee chairman.

Separate resolutions have been filed before the Senate and the House of Representatives all seeking to defend the former President from any investigation by the ICC.

Among the senators meeting the European lawmakers include Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, Senator Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa, and Senator Robin Padilla.

"Tomorrow, we will convene a special six-plus-six. Six-plus-six would entail a dialogue coming from the Senate Committee on Justice and Human with six counterparts coming from the European parliament subcommittee on human rights," Tolentino said.

Defending Duterte

Meanwhile, Tolentino and Senator Bong Go backed resolutions defending former President Rodrigo Duterte from any investigation by the ICC.

"I am with that," Tolentino said in an interview when asked about Senator Robin Padilla and Senator Jinggoy Estrada's resolutions supporting Duterte amid the ICC probe.

Tolentino expressed intent to co-author the resolutions.

For Tolentino, these resolutions are in consonance with law.

"We’re not part of the Rome’s Statute, there are codes functioning in the Philippines and the former president is willing to have - to be under the jurisdiction of Philippine laws and courts so iyon," he said.

In a separate statement, Go, Duterte's confidant, said he is also willing to be made as co-author of Padilla's resolution.

"Hindi dapat banyaga ang humusga sa naging kampanya ng nakaraang administrasyon laban sa ilegal na droga dahil buhay na buhay naman ang demokrasya sa ating bansa, mayroon tayong rule of law na pinapairal, at may sarili naman tayong mga korte na nananatiling malaya at mapagkakatiwalaan," he added.

Senate deputy minority leader Risa Hontiveros said her colleagues are free to file any resolutions but she expressed support for the ICC investigation, saying this will bring justice to the families of the drug war's victims.

"Ako ay naglo-look forward sa ICC investigation para pagkatapos ng pitong taon makapagsimulang mabigyan ng hustisya yung mga balo, yung mga ulila ng mga extrajudicial killings. Liban pa nga sa mga balo't ulila sa siyudad nila simula pa ng taong 2011," Hontiveros said in a press conference.

Padilla and Estrada's resolutions came days after a group of House members led by former President and Senior Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo filed a similar resolution defending Duterte of any probe by the international tribunal.

Duterte's drug war has been blamed for thousands of deaths, with government figures pegging it at around 6,000, but human rights groups say it could reach as high as 30,000.

The ICC in January announced that it is reopening its investigation into the killings that happened purportedly as a result of Duterte's bloody war on drugs, saying it "is not satisfied that the Philippines is undertaking relevant investigations that would warrant a deferral of the court's investigations."

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla had described the ICC's move as unwelcome and an irritant, noting that he would not stand for any antics that would tend to question the Philippines' status as a sovereign country.

Still, the Philippines notified the ICC earlier this month that it would appeal the decision.

Duterte, meanwhile, defended his drug war, saying his administration had to carry it out to fulfill his sworn duty to protect Filipinos.

The Philippines withdrew from the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, in March 2019 during the Duterte administration.—NB, GMA Integrated News