In disarray

It was Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo the President listened to in the ICC withdrawal decision. Malacanang photo by King Rodriguez.

The statements of Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque and the tweets of Philippine ambassador to the United Nations Teodoro Locsin, Jr related to President Duterte’s decision to withdraw Philippine membership in the International Criminal Court gave thepublic insights about the disarray in the Malacañang team.

The oblique remarks of the two officials give credence to “don’t-quote-me” info from Malacañang insiders that it was Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo that the President talked with before the 15-page statement that he didn’t even sign was released to the media.

The reason cited was what Panelo has been defending all over TV and radio: It was not published in the Official Gazette within a certain period of time from its signing into law.

It’s stressful to listen to Panelo’s intelligence-challenged arguments. Masakit sa bangs.

Malacañang sources said Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea was upset with Panelo’s advice which merely reinforced what Duterte had long wanted but opposed by majority of the experts consulted about the matter.

But Duterte, same sources said, is pressured by the concern of police officers that their involvement in Duterte’s brutal anti-drug war would subject them to the long arm of the ICC and their careers and their future choices in life would be adversely affected. Like, what if we decide to immigrate and our name is in the ICC’s watchlist?

Ambassador to the U.N Teodoro Locsin Jr's tweet about submitting the letter withdrawing PH membership from the ICC.

This concern, sources said, has caused some members of the PNP to be holding back in pursuing Duterte’s controversial all- out war against illegal drugs which have claimed the lives of thousands without going through the legal process.

The sentiments of Locsin, who had the task of submitting the notice of withdrawal from the ICC to the U.N, about the decision can be gleaned from his tweets which indicated he wanted to get it over quick. He tweeted: “I didn’t write that text though nor have I read it. I had other things to do. But I insisted it be delivered today. Not next week. The original from Manila was wrongly addressed and a mere fax. My girls corrected that, had it retyped on official paper, and I initialed it.”

He said he didn’t even read it: “I’ll read the statement one day; I just wanted it delivered yesterday. If I’d read it, with my editorial standards, who knows, it’d still be going back and forth and everybody’d still be yakking. Appointment with chef de cabinet was at 6 and St. Patrick’s Day fete at 6.30.”

He said it was “A sad day” but justified the decision saying “ human rights has been politicized. We resisted US pressure not to join until we finally signed on only to have it weaponized against our democracy fighting an existential threat from the drug trade.”

Roque, the only Filipino accredited to practice as a defense counsel in the ICC, had the difficult task of defending something he didn’t agree with. Reporters didn’t make it easy for him. They retrieved his tweet seven years ago hailing the ratification by the Philippine Senate of the resolution to be a member of the ICC: “ After 11 years of lobby, Phil now a state party to the ICC. No to impunity. Yes!”

Haunted by his past statements. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque briefing reporters. Malacañang photo.

Stung by criticisms, Roque retaliated in his press briefing: “And may I take this opportunity to my bashers. Number one, your bashing will not affect me. Number two, iyong mga kino-quote n’yo pong mga opinion ko, I stand by my personal opinions, but when I became Presidential Spokesperson, I lost my personal opinions. I can only speak the thoughts of the President. That is the nature of my job.”



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