House panels adopt reso urging gov’t to cooperate with ICC

By Jose Cielito Reganit

November 29, 2023, 6:17 pm

MANILA – The House of Representatives committees on justice and human rights on Wednesday unanimously adopted a consolidated resolution urging the Marcos administration to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation on former president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

The House panels approved House Resolution (HR) 1477 authored by Manila 6th District Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr. and 1-Rider Party-list Rep. Ramon Rodrigo Gutierrez, which was consolidated with HR 1482 by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, and HR 1393 of Party-list Reps. France Castro (ACT Teachers), Raoul Manuel (Kabataan), and Arlene Brosas (Gabriela), after four hours of deliberations.

During the hearing, Lagman explained that the hearing was not meant to decide on the matter of rejoining the ICC, while Abante maintained that cooperating does not reflect on the country's justice system.

Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra said while the Philippine government has no legal duty to cooperate with the ICC probe into the previous administration's bloody war on drugs, it would not prevent ICC prosecutors from conducting their investigation in the Philippines and fulfilling their responsibilities.

“We will not cooperate but ICC investigators are free to come and do their job here,” Guevarra said in response to questions by lawmakers.

He stated earlier in the hearing that the decision to cooperate with the ICC investigation ultimately lies with President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.

“Your resolutions urge the President to cooperate. So, the final say of whether the government will cooperate will be at the President,” Guevarra said. “I believe that the matter of whether we should cooperate with the ICC prosecutor is a political decision. And in that respect, the Head of the Republic, the Head of State.”

Prosecutor Hazel Decena Valdez of the Department of Justice and Director Janice Sanchez Rivera of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said their agencies would defer to the position of the President on the matter.

“I believe, your honor, that we have to defer to the order of our principal. In this instance, it’s the President of the Philippines,” Valdez said. “Whatever the decision of the President, the (DFA) will support it.”

The Philippine National Police, through its Deputy Director Brig. Gen. Rodolfo Castil Jr., said it would “just submit to the position of the President as head of the Executive Department to which PNP is under, and also with the SILG (Secretary of the Interior and Local Government).”

On the other hand, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Commissioner Fayda M. Dumarpa said the commission is “more than willing to coordinate” if the ICC needs its cooperation.

“We are an independent constitutionally created Commission for the promotion and protection of human rights, therefore we may and we will be happy to cooperate if the ICC deems fit that they need assistance from the (CHR),” Dumarpa told members of the House panels.

Abante said HR 1477 reflects the country’s commitment to upholding the rule of law, which is a fundamental pillar of democracy.

“By cooperating with the (ICC), even after our withdrawal from the Rome Statute, we demonstrate that no one is above the law, and we are accountable for our actions. This resolution is about principles, not personalities. And the rule of law is a sacrosanct principle,” he said.

Abante added that despite withdrawing from the Rome Statute, cooperating with the ICC for crimes that occurred during membership “demonstrates a commitment to global accountability and preventing impunity.”

House leader defends hearing

Meanwhile, House Deputy Speaker and Pampanga 3rd District Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. defended the House from Senator Ronald dela Rosa’s claim that some sectors are questioning the timing of the filing the resolutions.

Dela Rosa, who served as PNP chief during the Duterte administration and the chief implementor of the drug war, earlier floated the idea that people are maybe thinking that the ICC is being weaponized to silence the Dutertes.

In a statement, Gonzales urged dela Rosa to respect the mandates of the House of Representatives in the same way that House members respect the workings of the Senate.

“We respect the opinion of Senator Bato dela Rosa, but we ask for parliamentary courtesy from our esteemed colleague in the Senate,” he said.
“As the senator very well knows, the House of Representatives is mandated to act on resolutions filed by its members regardless of political affiliations, in the same manner that the Senate takes action on measures presented by senators.” (PNA)