DOJ, OSG assure cases in drug campaign earnestly reviewed

By Benjamin Pulta

September 28, 2022, 3:36 pm

MANILA – The government is still considering whether it will file another document before the International Criminal Court (ICC) backstopping its opposition to the resumption of the Netherlands-based body's investigation of the Philippine government’s campaign against illegal drugs.

Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, whose office is reviewing complaints of alleged abuses by law enforcers during the anti-drugs campaign, also took exception to the claims made by ICC prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan that the Philippines is not doing enough to bring to court the excesses allegedly committed during the anti-drug campaign.

“We do our own pace in our country,” Remulla said citing the number of cases that need to be scrutinized. “We do everything in accordance with the (law), we have been in office for 88 days.” Remulla said in a press briefing Wednesday.

He said that the ongoing prosecution of cases in the country continues to be hobbled by the lack of qualified witnesses.

“We are doing everything possible. We are talking about cases four or five years and are ongoing and we are waiting for witnesses to surface,” he added.

Former Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra, for his part, echoed the government’s position that it will not make hasty or haphazard investigations.

“All questionable incidents where death of drug suspects occurred have been investigated or are currently being investigated, but this process takes time to yield results. We have to consider the number of incidents, the right of respondent law officers to due process, the willingness of witnesses to come out and testify, resource constraints, “ Guevarra said.

Last Sept. 22, in a 21-page “response”, ICC prosecutor Khan asked the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber I, under Judge Peter Kovacs, to “order the resumption of the investigation into the situation” in the country after the Philippine government on Sept. 8 filed its own observations on the proposal.

In its filing, the Philippines asserted its position that the ICC lacks jurisdiction to take up the case as the alleged crimes which zero in on the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte, do not constitute "crimes against humanity" and were not perpetrated pursuant to a state policy, nor as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population.

The Philippines added that the government is investigating and prosecuted the alleged crimes or is currently doing so.

Guevarra also clarified that the ICC pre-trial chamber has not yet ruled on the Philippine government’s request to deny the ICC prosecutor’s motion to resume the investigation of the Philippine situation.

“What was published recently was the ICC prosecutor’s response to the Philippine government’s position on the issue. The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) is presently considering whether there is a need to reply to the prosecutor’s response regardless of the pre-trial chamber’s ruling, however, the Philippine government will avail itself of all legal remedies, both domestic and international, even as it vigorously pursues its own investigation and prosecution of crimes committed in relation to the government’s so-called war on drugs, all within the framework of our own legal and judicial system,” Guevarra said.

Duterte's lawyer, former spokesperson Harry Roque, meanwhile, said the ICC prosecutor is turning a blind eye to the situation in the Philippines where Duterte and his successor have had the largest number of votes ushering them into office.

"Nagbubulag-bulagan po si prosecutor sa katotohanan na ang ating Korte Supreme mismo ang siyang nagsisiguro na lahat po yung mga biktima ng tinatawag na drug war ay mabibigyan ng katarungan sa Pilipinas. Ang ICC po ay complimentary lamang sa ating mga hukom na lokal, at kung hindi lang po gumagana o ayaw gumana ng ating hukom ay iyon lamang ang pagkakataon na pwedeng gumana ang ICC (The prosecutor is turning a blind eye to the truth that the Supreme Court ensures that all victims of the drug war will get justice in the Philippines. The ICC is just complimentary to the local courts and only when local courts are not functioning can we resort to the ICC)," Roque said. (PNA)