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Bastusan na! Malacañang insists ICC has no jurisdiction on drug war

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Malacañang on Saturday dismissed as “utter disrespect” the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) insistence that it has jurisdiction to proceed with a preliminary examination of President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-narcotics crackdown, despite the Philippines’ withdrawal from the international tribunal.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo maintained that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the Philippines, which he said is an “independent” country” that has a working justice system.

“The Philippines as an independent State, through its duly constituted authorities, must not be waylaid by any force, internal or external, in going about its task of serving and protecting the Filipino people,” Panelo said in a statement.

“Any resort therefore to a foreign tribunal relative to the management of our country’s state policies is utter disrespect, and any complainant who does it who is a citizen of the Republic, is an infidel to the sovereign aspirations of this Republic,” he added.

He issued the statement after the ICC, in its “preliminary examination activities” report for 2019, noted that it intends to conclude its initial review of Duterte’s drug war by 2020 to determine the possible necessity to conduct a full-blown investigation into the Philippines’ campaign against narcotics trade.

The Philippines became a party to the Rome Statute, which creates the ICC, on Nov. 1, 2011.

The country, however, officially cut ties with ICC on Mar. 17, 2019, exactly a year after Duterte submitted a formal notice of revocation of its membership from the international tribunal due to its “brazen display of ignorance of the law.”

The ICC’s preliminary examination of Duterte’s drug war launched by prosecutor Fatou Bensouda pushed through in February 2018, as it noted that it has jurisdiction over the possible crimes perpetrated during the period the Philippines was a state party to the Rome Statute.

The ICC’s preliminary examination stemmed from a complaint lodged by lawyer Jude Sabio, accusing Duterte of committing crimes against humanity for the thousands of alleged extrajudicial killings of drug personalities since the drug war was waged on July 1, 2016 until Mar. 31, 2017.

Panelo said the “false allegations of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines “do not fall within the ICC’s definition of crimes against humanity.”

“This Government does not sanction nor condone any unlawful act resulting in the loss of lives. Neither does it allow any widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population,” he said.

“The deaths occurring in the course of legitimate police operations come about because the criminal suspects subject of these law enforcement activities resort to violence that imperils the lives and limbs of the police officers,” the Palace official added.

Panelo said Bensouda should instead rule that the ICC has “no jurisdiction” over the Philippines and the international body’s preconditions for its exercise of jurisdiction “have not been met.”

He also said there was no need for the ICC to intervene, as it has to observe the “principle of complementarity.”

The principle of complementarity, as defined by ICC, states that the international court may only exercise jurisdiction where national legal systems fail to do so, including whether they purport to act but in reality are unwilling or unable to genuinely carry out proceedings.

“The admissibility of any case before the ICC must also pass the test of complementarity, in that the Philippines should first be unable or unwilling to prosecute the alleged crimes against humanity in our jurisdiction,” Panelo said.

“There is no evidence that this Administration is unable or unwilling to prosecute crimes against humanity. The opposite is true. The government is pursuing vigorously its campaign against all kinds of crimes,” he added.

He also insisted that while the Philippines may have been a signatory to the Rome Statute, its membership did not place it under the jurisdiction of the ICC.

Panelo also said the creation of ICC did not comply with the publication requirement to pass the due process test imposed by the 1987 Constitution, “especially because the instrument is penal in nature.”

“A contrary interpretation would be antithetical to the demands of due process, constitutionally protected under our Bill of Rights,” he said.

“Hence, the ICC never acquired jurisdiction over the Philippines, the latter’s membership thereat being void ab initio (invalid from the outset). Necessarily, it did not give birth to any legal effect.”

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