PH won't cooperate as ICC opens drug war probe, Duterte's counsel says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 16) — The Duterte administration reiterated it will not cooperate with the International Criminal Court after its pre-trial chamber approved the start of the investigation into the alleged crimes against humanity in the Philippine government's war on illegal drugs, chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo said on Thursday.

He maintained the ICC has no jurisdiction over the Philippines since the country withdrew from the Rome Statute — the treaty that established the ICC — on March 17, 2019. However, the ICC previously said it retains jurisdiction over the alleged crimes conducted while the country was still a member of the tribunal.

Like what President Rodrigo Duterte claimed before, Panelo said the Philippines’ signing of the Rome Statute never took effect in the country since it wasn't published in the Official Gazette.

Panelo claimed Duterte and his appointees are neither bothered nor troubled by the ICC decision, saying it reeks of political propaganda to "dethrone the President from his seat."

"While we expect that more theatrics will be employed by the detractors of the President as election season draws near, this blatant and brazen interference and assault on our sovereignty as an independent country by the ICC is condemnable," he said in a statement.

With this refusal to cooperate, there likely would not be enough progress to even bring the case to trial, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.

“Ang aking prediction po, matutulog lang ‘yung kasong ‘yan,” he said in a Malacañang briefing. “Dahil in the absence of cooperation, lalong-lalo na sa kapulisan, ay wala po talagang ebidensyang makakalap.”

[Translation: My prediction is that the case will stay idle. Because in the absence of cooperation, especially by police, they really won’t be able to gather evidence.]

Roque said this lack of proof is also why other cases being investigated by the ICC are unable to move forward years after.

He added that while the Philippines previously consented to being a member of the tribunal, it will only acknowledge ICC’s jurisdiction if the country’s justice system is no longer working — something he insisted is not the case.

The ICC on Wednesday stated that the Chamber found reasonable basis to proceed with the investigation into "the crime against humanity of murder" with respect to killings committed during the drug war from July 1, 2016 to March 16, 2019, as well as in Davao City — by what is known as the Davao Death Squad — between Nov. 1, 2011 to June 30, 2016.

The Chamber said it reviewed 204 victims' representations, adding 94% of the victims were in favor of the investigation.

RELATED: Drug war victims 'overwhelmingly support' ICC probe, report finds