DFA refuses to send invitations to ICC execs to attend Senate inquiry, citing Marcos

By HANA BORDEY,GMA Integrated News

The Department of Foreign Affairs has refused to accommodate the Senate panel’s request to invite the officials of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to the hearing on resolutions defending former President Rodrigo Duterte from any investigation and prosecution by the tribunal.
On April 17, the DFA sent a letter to Senate justice and human rights committee chairman Francis Tolentino, informing the panel that the agency cannot facilitate their request due to President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s pronouncement

about “disengaging” from the ICC.
The DFA cited Marcos’ exact words that “we are essentially disengaging from any contact, from any communication with the ICC.”
“In view of the foregoing, the DFA respectfully recommends that the Senate committee send the invitations directly to the intended invitees, Karim Khan A.A. KC, and Fatou Bomm Bensouda,” the letter read.
While they did not facilitate the sending of invitations to ICC officials, the DFA said it had already informed the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights and The Hague Academy of International Law about the Senate’s request for their participation.
The Senate panel was supposed to tackle the resolutions defending Duterte from the ICC probe on Wednesday, but it was postponed due to the DFA’s decision.
“They are respecting the disengagement instruction coming from the president. So yun ang [That was the] reason [for the postponement],” Tolentino said.
Meanwhile, Tolentino, who also chairs the Senate blue ribbon committee, said he will launch the panel’s investigation into the alleged “state-sponsored” sugar smuggling, which was earlier raised by Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros.
“By Tuesday, I will be conducting the hearing concerning the sugar fiasco 2,” he said.


The Senate minority bloc has been prodding the Senate blue ribbon committee to launch the probe into the alleged irregular sugar importation last February 9, involving 260 20-foot containers of sugar from Thailand.
Hontiveros had said that the February 9 shipments could not have been covered by Sugar Order 6, as the allocation for this would only start on February 24. It was also not covered by earlier orders, as the earliest arrival date would be March 1.
Hontiveros said Agriculture Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban, who represented President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. in the Sugar Regulatory Administration Board, had a January 12 letter addressed to one of the alleged sugar importers of the questioned importation, saying the allocation was “per instruction of Executive Secretary [Lucas] Bersamin.”
Interpreting the memorandum issued by the Office of the Executive Secretary as an approval to proceed with the importation, Panganiban said he instructed “three capable and accredited companies to proceed with the importation of sugar provided that they agree to reduce the prices of sugar.”
On March 2, the Department of Agriculture (DA) gave its go-ahead for the release of the imported sugar that was flagged by Hontiveros as not covered by earlier sugar orders.
The clearance was issued by Panganiban “considering that allocations under Sugar Order No. 6, Series of 2022-2023 had been duly awarded, and considering further the Memorandum from the Office of the Executive Secretary dated January 13, 2023, and the Memorandum from the Office of the Senior Undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture on even date.”
This is not the first time that the Senate blue ribbon committee has been asked to investigate an issue related to sugar importation.
In August last year, the committee investigated the alleged unauthorized issuance of Sugar Order No. 4, which would have allowed the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar.
The Senate blue ribbon committee recommended the filing of administrative and criminal charges against an Agriculture official and three former Sugar Regulatory Administration officials over the controversial SO No. 4. —VBL, GMA Integrated News