Palace: Int'l court has no jurisdiction over PH

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Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Sunday refuted Senator Leila de Lima's claims that the government is unable to probe alleged extrajudicial killings, the reason why she called on an international court to step in and investigate.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 10) — Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque refuted Senator Leila de Lima's claims that the government is unable to probe alleged extrajudicial killings (EJKs).   

"The point is, the ICC was never intended to be the court of first recourse. People who have complaints against extralegal killings must file before the Philippine courts," Roque, also a human rights lawyer, told CNN Philippines on Sunday.

De Lima, in a strongly worded statement Saturday, urged the ICC to start preliminary investigations on alleged extrajudicial killings in the country as   President Rodrigo Duterte has basically adopted a policy of killing Filipinos suspected of drug use and peddling.

"It's a no-brainer. How can the ICC expect the Duterte Administration to take jurisdiction over the prosecution of EJK crimes, when the President has already admitted it is the very policy of his administration to kill Filipinos?" de Lima said.

The detained senator was referring to the President's speech in Pampanga on December 7. Duterte said his policy on the drug war will remain "until the dying days of his presidency or his life."

"We do not enjoy killing our own kind. It is not a good policy, but we are besieged, I said, with something that is very terrible," Duterte said, referring to the drug war. "Four million is four million addicts, 42 percent of the total barangay are contaminated with shabu."

The Philippines is a party to the Rome Statute of the ICC. Under the statute, the state is given the primary jurisdiction to try cases, and the ICC only steps in when the concerned state fails to prosecute an international crime such as genocide or other crimes against humanity.

Roque, however, insisted there is no unwillingness on the side of the government to probe the killings, citing cases in the Supreme Court.

"What better proof do you want that Philippine Courts are able and willing, other than Supreme Court cases being heard by the Court en banc?" Roque said.

The Supreme Court is currently hearing oral arguments on two petitions filed by separate lawyer groups against the Philippine National Police (PNP)'s anti-drug campaign.

READ: SC orders oral arguments on drug war, EJKs

The Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) on October 11 filed a petition to stop the anti-drug campaign.

Meanwhile, the Center for International Law-Philippines on October 18 sought for a writ of amparo to protect certain residents of a barangay in Manila after reports of harassment from police officials.

READ: Petitioners call on SC to 'guide' police with anti-drug operations

In February, the Court of Appeals' also granted a writ of amparo in favor of the victims of alleged extrajudicial killings in Payatas. This prohibited certain police officers from entering the residences and work addresses of the petitioners, within a radius of one kilometer.

READ: More complainants surface vs cops involved in alleged illegal drug bust

He also clarified, no case against Duterte is pending before the ICC.

"A complaint is when the Office of the Prosecutor has decided to conduct preliminary investigation," Roque said, referring to the communication filed by lawyer Jude Sabio before the ICC in The Hague over what he calls a "continuing mass murder" in the country.

"He still has to convince the prosecution to conduct the counterpart of a preliminary investigation and it is only when the prosecutor has conducted preliminary investigation that there's deemed to be a complaint," Roque said.

He added the Ombusdman can investigate a sitting president. Duterte enjoys one-year impeachment protection as provided for under the Constitution, when the Lower House in May dismissed the complaint.

READ: Lawyer asks international court to look into 'mass murder' in PH

Putting a stop to drug addiction is one of the President's main campaign promises.

The PNP headed the anti-drug operations of the government with Oplan Tokhang until the President transferred the program to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in October, following public uproar on allegations of police abuses.

However, Duterte allowed the police and other government agencies to return to the drug war on December 5, but under the supervision of the PDEA.

READ: Duterte allows police to go back to drug war

Government data show the death toll of drug personalities who died in anti-drug operations stands at 3,967, as of November 27. Human rights groups claim the number is way higher at  around 13,000.