Senate panel eyes inquiry on ICC probe vs. war on drugs

By Wilnard Bacelonia

March 29, 2023, 8:22 pm

<p style="text-align: left;">Senator Francis “Tol” N. Tolentino <em>(PNA file photo by Avito Dalan)</em></p>

Senator Francis “Tol” N. Tolentino (PNA file photo by Avito Dalan)

MANILA – Senator Francis Tolentino, chairperson of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights is planning to launch a series of hearings to discuss the International Criminal Court's (ICC) move to proceed with its investigation on the war on drugs during the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte.

Tolentino told reporters on Wednesday that the Senate Committee on Rules already referred to his panel Senate Resolution Nos. (SRN) 492 and 488 filed by Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Robinhood Padilla, respectively.

"I still have to study the need for other resource persons. I'm thinking of having a resource person coming from the ICC itself kung papayag sila kahit [via] Zoom sila (if they will allow even [via] Zoom)," Tolentino said.

The lawmaker said his committee would start reaching out to the ICC within the week to ask if the international body would be willing to attend the Senate proceedings, most probably to start after the Holy Week.

"Para ipaliwanag nila yung hinihingi nila na bakit daw hindi naipaliwanag ng (So they can explain about what they are asking why it was not explained by the) Solicitor General, who, of course would be there, but I want to have Mr. (Prosecutor Karim) Khan explain the reason why they insisted that the pleading filed by the Office of Solicitor General was not complete, conclusive enough," Tolentino said.

He said that after the proceedings, there will be a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate, which approved the resolution concurring in the ratification of the Rome Statute of the ICC in 2011.

Estrada's SRN 492 states that the Philippines' institutions are fully functional and more than capable to address the concerns raised by Khan, which the government formally conveyed to the ICC in a letter dated Nov. 10, 2021.

Ang paninindigan ko sa issue na ito ay batay na rin sa (My stand on this issue was based on the) Rome Statute's principle of complementarity which recognizes a State's right to exercise jurisdiction over most serious crimes of international concern. Sa ilalim ng (Under the) principle of complementarity, the International Criminal Court will only act if such State is unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute the crime,” Estrada said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Padilla's SRN 488 seeks "to declare unequivocal defense of former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, the 16th President of the Republic of the Philippines, in any investigation or prosecution by the ICC," noting likewise that the Philippines has a "functioning and independent" judicial system.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Padilla said he fully supports the government's stand to disengage with the ICC, which he said "up to now insists on investigating the past administration's anti-drug war."

"Our President has made it clear: The ICC has no jurisdiction over the Philippines. Our Solicitor General has also said the Philippines has no legal or moral obligation to cooperate with the ICC," Padilla said.

"The ICC seems to be standing on shaky ground. It has no power to force itself on the sovereignty of our Motherland, the Philippines," he added.

Willing to serve as legal counsel

Tolentino said he accepted Senator Ronald Dela Rosa's proposal to act as the latter's legal counsel if the ICC pursues the investigation.

He said that he is also willing to lawyer for former President Duterte as well.

Dela Rosa, who served as the chief of the Philippine National Police during the height of the government's war on drugs, and Duterte were accused by human rights groups of committing crimes against humanity.

Tolentino said his role will be to protect Dela Rosa not just within the confines of the ICC but also locally. (PNA)