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Philippines won't comply with ICC warrant of arrest, says Remulla

The Philippine government will not comply if the International Criminal Court (ICC) issues a warrant of arrest against some individuals over killings attributed to the war on drugs, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said Monday.

Asked if the country would follow if the ICC issues a warrant, Remulla answered in the negative.

"Hindi. Wala silang gagawin dito eh. Wala silang kinalaman sa atin dito. At ano gagawin nila, papasukin nila tayo? Gusto ba nilang pasukin tayo bilang isang kolonya na naman? Eh tapos na yun, eh," Remulla told reporters.

(No. They won't do anything here. They have nothing to do here. What will they do, invade us? Do they want to come here like we're a colony? That's already in the past.)

“Ginawa na tayong kolonya dati ng Espanya, ginawa na tayong kolonya ng America, ginawa na tayong kolonya ng Japan nu'ng araw. Tama na. Eh malaya tayong bansa na may sariling sistema ng batas,” he added.

(We've been colonized by Spain, we've been colonized by America, we've been colonized by Japan back in the day. Now, we are a free country with our own justice system.)

The ICC Appeals Chamber is set to issue on Tuesday its decision on the Philippines' plea against the continuation of the ICC prosecutor's investigation of the killings attributed to the war on drugs.

In a three-page scheduling order signed by Presiding Judge Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, the appeals chamber said, "Judgment in the above appeal will be delivered in open court on Tuesday, 18 July 2023 at 10h00."

When sought for comment, Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra earlier said that the ICC prosecutor could indict certain individuals if there is sufficient evidence.

Remulla, however, said the indictment would only be “political” and that the ICC should pass on the evidence to the Philippine government if they want certain individuals held accountable.

“Ang sinasabi ko naman, basta merong ebidensya na nakaturo sa mga taong nais nilang usigin natin ay ibigay sa atin ang ebidensya at tayo na ang bahala na habulin ang mga tao gumawa ng mga krimen sa ating bansa,” he said.

(What I’m saying is, if there is evidence pointing to individuals they want prosecuted, they should give us the evidence and it’s up to us to chase these people down.)

Under the  controversial drug war, at least 6,200 suspects were killed in police operations based on government records. Human rights groups, however, claimed the actual death toll could be from 12,000 to 30,000.

Former President Rodrigo Duterte pulled the Philippines out of the Hague-based tribunal in 2019 after it began a preliminary probe into his drug war, followed by the launch of a formal inquiry later that year.

The probe was suspended in November 2021 after the Philippine government said it was re-examining several hundred cases of drug operations that led to deaths at the hands of police, hitmen, and vigilantes.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan had asked to restart the inquiry, saying the Philippine government had not provided evidence it was carrying out thorough inquiries.

The ICC authorized the reopening of the inquiry in January 2023. In an appeals brief filed in March, the Philippine government sought the reversal of the decision of the ICC to reopen an inquiry.

Duterte, for his part, has continuously dismissed the ICC investigation.

Meanwhile, Remulla asked the ICC to respect the country’s sovereignty.

“May sarili tayong sistema ng batas, may sarili tayong tradition, may sarili tayong kapulisan, may sarili tayong prosecution, meron tayong korte na hindi nila pwedeng pakiaalaman o kaya baliwalain. Yun po ay igalang nila ang ating sovereignty,” the Justice Secretary said.

(We have our own system of laws, we have our own tradition, we have our own police force, we have our own prosecution, and we have courts that they should not interfere with or dismiss. They should respect our sovereignty.) —NB/KG, GMA Integrated News