President Rodrigo R. Duterte

MANILA -- The International Criminal Court (ICC) has no authority to arrest President Rodrigo Duterte on the basis of alleged commission of crimes against humanity for the deaths of thousands of drug personalities in the country, Malacañang said on Sunday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo's statement was in response to the claim of former Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares that Duterte may soon face possible arrest, once the ICC is done with its preliminary examination of the war on illegal drugs in the Philippines.

On Saturday, Colmenares claimed Duterte would struggle in his last two years in office, "if a warrant is issued for his arrest worldwide."

In an interview with dzIQ, Panelo shrugged off Colmenares' "fervent wish" for Duterte's arrest, noting that the ICC will never have jurisdiction over the Philippines.

"Unang-una, wish lang ni (former) Congressman Colmenares yun. Eh siguro 'yun ang kanyang fervent wish. Hindi mangyayari 'yun (First and foremost, that's just a wish of former Congressman Colmenares. That's just his fervent wish. That will never happen)," Panelo, also Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, said.

"Pangalawa, wala ng jurisdiction ang ICC so ineffective na mag-issue pa sila ng warrant. Now, paano nila ie-enforce (Second, the ICC has no jurisdiction so it is ineffective for them to issue a warrant. How can they enforce that)?" he added.

The ICC, in its “preliminary examination activities” report for 2019, noted that it seeks the conclusion of its initial review of Duterte’s drug war by 2020 to determine the possible necessity to conduct a full-blown investigation into the Philippines’ campaign against narcotics trade.

The Philippines was officially out of the ICC on March 17, 2019, or a year after the Duterte administration officially issued a formal notification about its intent of leaving the international tribunal body.

The country's departure came after the ICC launched in February 2018 a preliminary examination of Duterte's crackdown on illegal drugs, based on lawyer Jude Sabio's communication, which accused the President of committing crimes against humanity for the killings of thousands of drug offenders from July 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017.

Despite the Philippines' withdrawal, the ICC pushed through with its preliminary examination, stressing that it has jurisdiction over the possible crimes committed during the period the Philippines was a member-state of the international court.

On Saturday, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said it is willing to cooperate with the ICC, in the event that it is tapped for information on Duterte's anti-narcotics campaign.

Panelo merely brushed aside the CHR's remarks.

"Nasa sa kanila na 'yun. Hindi naman namin pinapakialaman ang Commission on Human Rights (It's up to them. We don't interfere in the affairs of the Commission on Human Rights)," he said.

Duterte was still "not bothered," despite the accusation thrown against him, his spokesman said.

"No, [the President is not bothered]. I think it's Colmenares who's bothered," Panelo said.

"Eh di ba nga matagal na niyang sinasabi, wala ngang jurisdiction. Kahit ano pang gawin nila, walang mangyayari sa kanila (He has been saying that the ICC has no jurisdiction. Whatever it does, it will not prosper)," he added.

In a speech delivered on Nov. 30, the President stressed that the ICC "cannot prosecute [him] for a thousand years."

Panelo also believed that the case lodged before the ICC would not thrive.

He stressed that the international tribunal would need more time to look into the allegations hurled against Duterte.

"Unang-una, may (First and foremost, there is) preliminary examination to determine whether pwede silang (they can) mag-acquire ng jurisdiction. Number two, magkakaroon ng (there will be) preliminary investigation to determine whether there's a probable cause or none," he said.

"'Pag meron na, saka magta-trial. Malayo pa yun assuming na may jurisdiction. Eh wala nga, as far as we are concerned (If there is a probable cause, it will start the trial. It will take more time, assuming that it has jurisdiction. But it has no jurisdiction as far as we are concerned)," Panelo added. (PNA)