Duterte to block ICC probe of drug war — lawyer

FORMER Philippine President Rodrigo R. Duterte would try to block an International Criminal Court (ICC) probe of his deadly drug war and would not allow foreign interference, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

“He has made his position very clear: Now that he is no longer president, he no longer has immunity from suit,” his lawyer and former spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. told the ABS-CBN News Channel. “All those who have grievances or complaints against him should file a criminal case before a Philippine prosecutor.”

Mr. Roque said the ex-president would rather undergo trial before a local court and serve time in a Philippine jail if found guilty of violating the law.

Mr. Duterte earlier met with Mr. Roque, Salvador C. Medialdea who was his executive secretary and Menardo I. Guevarra, his Justice chief who is now the solicitor general of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. to discuss the potential reopening of the ICC investigation.

“Under no circumstance will he allow a foreign prosecutor, any foreign judge or court to exercise jurisdiction over him,” Mr. Roque said.

The tough-talking Philippine leader would ask a local court to block the ICC probe and stop the police from arresting him, he said. The ICC was never intended to substitute for domestic legal systems, he added.

Political analysts have said the ICC would probably prosecute Mr. Duterte and his agents as soon as it resumes its investigation of the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign.

The Hague-based international court on July 14 gave the Philippines until Sept. 8 to comment on the ICC Office of the Prosecutor’s request to resume the investigation into alleged crimes against humanity by Mr. Duterte and his officials. It also allowed victims to make written submissions through their lawyers.

Mr. Marcos, Jr., a close political ally of the Dutertes, on Monday said the Philippines would not rejoin the ICC. “This ICC is a very different kind of court, which is why we are carefully studying first the procedure so that our actions won’t be misinterpreted,” he told a press briefing on Monday.

Mr. Duterte had told police officers to shoot drug suspects if their lives were at risk. When he was president, he often defended the campaign by saying it had saved Filipino families from the drug menace and prevented the country from turning into a “narco-politics state.”

Mr. Duterte canceled Philippine membership in the international tribunal in 2018.

Arjan P. Aguirre, a political science professor at the Ateneo de Manila University, has said Mr. Marcos is probably trying to shield his predecessor from prosecution. 

Mr. Marcos ran with presidential daughter and Vice-President Sara Duterte-Carpio in the May 9 election, which both won by a landslide.

The ICC, which tries people charged with crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes and aggression, suspended its probe of Mr. Duterte’s deadly war on drugs last year upon the Philippine government’s request.

Senator Ana Theresia N. Hontiveros-Baraquel on Monday said Mr. Marcos should not block any investigations of the drug war that started even before the Philippines withdrew from the ICC.

Former national police chief Ronald M. dela Rosa, the main enforcer of the drug war and now a senator, has said the probe is an insult to the Philippine Justice system, adding that he would not cooperate with the investigation.

Filipino lawyers have been calling on the ICC to resume its probe of the anti-drug campaign, saying the Department of Justice (DoJ) was only looking at 52 deaths out of the tens of thousands killed.

The Justice department had only brought five of the 52 cases involving 150 police officers to court since it started its own probe last year.

In a 53-page request to the international court’s pre-trial chamber, ICC Prosecutor Karim Ahmad A. Khan said the Philippines had failed to show it investigated crimes related to the campaign.

He said the chamber should issue an order on an “expedited basis.” It should “receive any further observations it considers appropriate from victims and the government of the Philippines,” he added.

Data from the Philippine government released in June 2021 showed that at least 6,117 suspected drug dealers had been killed in police operations as of April 2021. Human rights groups estimate that as many as 30,000 suspects died.

Carlos H. Conde, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the ICC would likely proceed with its investigation of the drug war even if the Philippines does not cooperate.

“Mr. Marcos and his advisers can spin this all they want, but this is definitely going to happen, and this is a decision the ICC is keen to take,” he told ONE News on Monday evening. – John Victor D. Ordoñez