By Prince Golez
The International Criminal Court (ICC) should allow the Philippines to resolve the Duterte administration’s drug war issue through the country’s well-functioning justice system, which allows it to hold perpetrators accountable, a Department of Justice (DOJ) official said.
Justice Assistant Secretary Mico Clavano made the statement after the ICC authorized Special Prosecutor Karim Khan to reopen the investigation into the reported killings under the drug war of former President Rodrigo Duterte.
The DOJ does not support the decision to resume the investigation because the Philippines has a working justice system and the ability to prosecute those who are accountable, Clavano said in a media forum over the weekend.
According to the DOJ official, the complementarity principle is observed in international law, which means that the ICC or any international court can only intervene if a particular country lacks the capability or is unwilling to conduct an investigation.
“What we’re trying to say is we are doing a genuine investigation on the killings from 2016 up to 2019 or even up to the end, 2022. If there’s a working justice system then the ICC cannot come in, and supplant or substitute our working justice system with their own; dahil gumagana naman.
“So in international law, when that happens, they can only complement iyong ating investigation, and they cannot substitute,” he explained.
The Philippines has been cooperating with the ICC, and on September 8, 2022, it reported the progress of its investigation into the Duterte administration’s drug war and submitted documents, case records, and investigative files, Clavano said, adding that the ICC found it inadequate.
Clavano emphasized that the Philippines must resist the ICC’s entry into the country and substitution of its judgment with theirs in order to protect its sovereignty.
In international law, it’s all about consent, he stressed.
Based on the ICC’s history, the undersecretary noted that all of the countries it has investigated so far are African countries such as Uganda, Congo, and Sudan – countries that lack a functioning justice system and have experienced a breakdown in civil order.
“Kaya po if we accept the decision of the ICC, it is as if we are admitting that we are on the same level as those countries – wala talagang gobyerno, nagkakagulo talaga doon,” said Clavano.
“But here (Philippines), we’re saying that we have an organized – although we have limitations, we have some challenges that we have to overcome – we have a working justice system. Kaya po iyon iyong naging stand ng gobyerno ngayon,” he also said.
It is also consistent with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s policy that the Philippines is no longer a member of the Rome Statute and is thus already outside the jurisdiction of the ICC.
Clavano assured that the DOJ will conduct a full-blown investigation into the past administration’s drug war, adding that it will gather the necessary evidence, interview witnesses, and thoroughly examine all of the facts of the cases.
He, however, pointed out that carrying out these processes will take time, and conviction will not be immediate, despite being the administration’s ultimate goal.
“So, we want to express to the ICC and to the Special Prosecutor, Mr. Khan, na just to give us time to conduct our own investigation, and on the basis of the complementarity principle to respect our sovereignty, and to respect our judicial system here in the Philippines,” the DOJ spokesman said.
More than 6,000 people linked to illegal drug activities were killed since Duterte took office in June 2016, the Philippine National Police said.