Palace accuses ICC of unequal treatment of less-developed nations

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 16) — Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Thursday accused the International Criminal Court of only being quick to probe those from less-developed countries like the Philippines.

In his regular briefing, Roque said that on the contrary, preliminary examinations on crimes allegedly committed by those from wealthy nations are not concluded as swiftly.

“Kapag ang mga akusado ay mga from developed countries na mga puti, sampung taon sila nagd-desisyon. At ang desisyon doon ay para ‘wag na ituloy ang preliminary investigation,” Roque said, citing the case of England’s reported war crimes against Afghanistan.

“Pero kapag hindi mga taga-developed countries, gaya ng Pilipinas, napakabilis ng resolusyon,” he continued.

[Translation: If the accused are from developed countries, or are white people, it takes them 10 years to decide. And the decision is to not pursue the preliminary investigation. But when it comes to those from less-developed countries, like the Philippines, they issue a resolution right away.]

On Wednesday, the ICC’s pre-trial chamber authorized the start of the investigation into alleged killings under President Rodrigo Duterte's war on illegal drugs. But the Philippine government continues to push back, maintaining the ICC has no jurisdiction over the country.

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

The supposed unequal treatment is also the reason why a number of African nations have moved to withdraw from the ICC, Roque said.

“Ngayong nasa New York po ako, nakakausap ko ang mga kapatid natin sa Africa,” he said. “There was a time na lahat ng mga African nations belonging to the African Union ay nais nang bumitiw sa ICC. Bakit? Ang perception nila, pinupuruhan ang mga Africans.”

[Translation: Now that I’m in New York, I’m able to talk to people from Africa. There was a time that all African nations belonging to the African Union wanted to leave the ICC. Why? Their perception is that the ICC is targeting Africans.]

The President is of the same opinion, he added. Roque said Duterte believes the ICC is unfairly attacking his government by launching an investigation when the country’s judiciary is “still working.”

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

The Philippines withdrew from the ICC in March 2018, after the tribunal initiated preliminary examination into the bloody anti-drug campaign. The withdrawal became effective in March 2019, a year after the country deposited notice of its pullout to the United Nations Secretary-General.

However, the ICC said withdrawal has no impact on on-going proceedings or matters already under consideration by the court prior to the date the pullout became effective.