Harry Roque Faces ICC, Defends Duterte government
The human rights issue is being politicized and there is no reason for the International Criminal Court to take jurisdiction over any complaint on alleged human rights violations related to President Duterte’s war on drugs, his spokesman has told the ICC.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque appealed to the ICC to adhere to its own rules and focus on the trial of leaders accused of human rights violations.
Instead of addressing human rights concerns raised against Duterte, Roque warned the ICC against being misled by critics who wanted the President charged before the international tribunal.
“Mr. President, we urge the Court to resist attempts by some sectors to treat the Court as a venue to pursue political agenda to destabilize governments and undermine legitimate national authorities,” Roque said during the general debate of the 16th Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC held at the UN last Thursday.
“It is indeed actions like these that politicize and dilute the Court’s mandate, which ultimately undermine national efforts to punish and prosecute crimes covered by the Statute and derail current efforts to achieve universality of the Rome Statute,” Roque said.
“We trust that the Court’s exercise of its mandate will respect national processes geared towards exacting criminal accountability for conduct committed within our territory,” he said.
he group Human Rights Watch said the Duterte administration has made no genuine effort to seek accountability for drug war abuses.
Param-Preet Singh of Human Rights Watch said there have been no successful prosecutions or convictions of police implicated in summary killings despite compelling evidence.
Withdraw from ICC
Roque insinuated a possible withdrawal of the Philippines from the ICC and the Rome Statute.
“A violation of the very basis for our consent – which is complementarity – will constrain us to reassess our continuing commitment to the Court and the Rome Statute,” he said.
Roque earlier talked about the Philippines’ anchored consent to be bound by the Rome Statute on the principle of complementarity.
He cited the significance of complementarity and of collective efforts to develop an effective and fair international criminal system.
The Philippine government made the stand months after self-confessed hit man Edgar Matobato accused Duterte of being involved in extrajudicial killings when he was still mayor of Davao City.
Duterte is also facing global criticism over the thousands killed in his flagship campaign against illegal drugs.
Roque said the Philippines echoes the ICC’s shared sovereign goals of peace and security, and the importance of criminal accountability for the serious crimes of concern to the international community.
“It recognizes that effective prosecution must be ensured at the national level and enhanced by international cooperation,” Roque said.
Roque pointed out the ICC is envisioned to have complementary, not primary, jurisdiction for the prosecution of persons most responsible for the four international crimes under the Rome Statute.
“The Rome Statute requires the Court and other bodies to respect and defer to the primary criminal jurisdiction of such State Party, unless it can be shown that the state party is unwilling or unable to investigate and prosecute such crimes,” he said.
Roque said the Philippines supports the activation of the ICC’s jurisdiction over the crime of aggression as another step toward the fulfillment of the promise, not only of the Rome Statute, but also of the UN Charter on the prohibition on the use of force.
“This position is consistent with the policy expressly provide in Article II of our Constitution that the Philippines renounces war as an instrument of national policy,” he said.
In his three-page statement, Roque also said the Philippine government affirms its commitment to the Rome Statute and the ICC. “We are also reminded that the Court is a court of last resort,” he said.
Duterte, who has been criticized for numerous deaths related to the administration’s drug campaign, had repeatedly defended his acts by invoking the need to implement the rule of law and “preserve the youth of this country.”
The Senate and the House of Representatives have respectively conducted their independent probes but there are no findings yet on the use of force or violence or any state-sponsored killings.
There were also attempts to file charges against the President before the Office of the Ombudsman.
Roque also used the Marawi siege to remind the ICC about the “intimate and indisputable link between terrorism and the illegal drug trade.”
“The primary objective of the Rome Statute to complement national efforts in criminal justice and social reconciliation must not be minimized or set aside,” Roque said.
Human Rights Watch agreed with Roque that under the ICC’s statute, the court may only step in when national authorities are unable or unwilling to do so.
“Yet his (Roque) assertion that the Philippine government has been willing and able to investigate those deaths has simply not been true,” Singh said.
Singh said the government’s claims of its preparedness to prosecute offenders are grotesquely deceptive in the face of this grim reality