VERA FILES FACT CHECK: PHL’s notice of withdrawal from ICC is the latest in a string of inconsistent Palace responses to war on drugs probe

Various media outfits mid-afternoon of March 14 reported the Philippine government’s notice to withdraw from the Rome Statute, the international treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Palace spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed the reports on Twitter:

The notice of withdrawal adds to the series of inconsistencies by Malacañang since the announcement Feb. 8 of ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda opening a preliminary examination on crimes allegedly committed by the Philippine government in its war on drugs campaign.

STATEMENT

In a television interview, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte felt “naloko (deceived)” by the statute:

“When we entered that particular statute, it is on the assumption that they will be observing our own Constitution, the requirements of due process, the presumption of innocence, the requirement of publication. Lahat yun viniolate nila. Wala- they’ve been- so ang feeling ni presidente eh na- nila- naloko lang pala kami (They violated all those. The president feels we’ve been deceived).”

Source: ABS-CBN News, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Panelo speaks to reporters, March 14, 2018, watch from 0:48-1:12

Asked about the the implications of the withdrawal on the ICC examination, Panelo said:

Para nga tumigil na sila (So they’ll stop).”

Source: ABS-CBN News, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Panelo speaks to reporters, March 14, 2018, watch from 4:11:4:12

FLIP-FLOP

Malacañang was singing a different tune immediately after Bensouda announced the preliminary examination; Palace spokesperson Roque gave the impression that Duterte had been optimistic about facing the ICC.

In a Feb. 8 press briefing, Roque claimed he discussed the matter “extensively” with the president, who he said “welcomes” the preliminary examination:

“The president and I met about this extensively for more than two hours last night. The president has said that he also welcomes this preliminary inves--preliminary examination because he is sick and tired of being accused of the commission of crimes against humanity.”

Source: Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Feb. 8, 2018, Malacanang Palace, watch from 11:19 to 11:37

Roque also said Duterte “looks forward” to “engaging” the ICC prosecutor:

“Well, the president himself is a lawyer. He looks forward in fact to engaging the prosecutor of the court as a former prosecutor himself.”

Source: Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Feb. 8, 2018, Malacanang Palace, watch from 17:30 to 17:39

Roque added:

“He knows what the procedures are, they will fail. The president has said that if need be he will argue his case personally before the International Criminal Court.”

Source: Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Feb. 8, 2018, Malacanang Palace, watch from 14:15 to 14:32

More recent remarks by Duterte himself, however, don't match the statements attributed to him by Roque, and also don’t quite match Panelo’s claim that he felt deceived.

In a speech in Tarlac March 7, Duterte said:

“Despite or in spite of the threats of ICC and everything, wala akong pakialam sa kanila (I don’t care about them)."

Source: Speech of President Rodrigo Duterte during 145th Founding Anniversary and 2nd Kanlahi Festival of Tarlac City, March 7, 2018, Tarlac City, watch from 17:28 to 17:41

Earlier, the president insulted Bensouda, and said he prefers to snub allegations against him:

Tapos takot-takutin ako ng ICC, ugh (The ICC threatens me)...‘yung (the) black lady [referring to Bensouda], they let you… You cannot acquire jurisdiction over me, not in a million years. Kaya hindi ko sinasagot (I don’t answer them).”

Source: Oath-Taking of Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Officials and Anti-Corruption Meet, March 6, 2018, Malacanang Palace, watch from 36:17 to 36:33

The ICC will never have jurisdiction over him, so why should he listen to them, Duterte said:

Sabi ko, ay “S**t, maniwala ka diyan (I said, ‘S**t,’ why believe them)? They cannot ever, ever hope to acquire jurisdiction over my person. Hindi nga ako maniwala sa nanay ko, sa kanila pa. P****g i*a. B****t kayo. (I don’t listen to my mom, why should I listen to them? Son of a b***h. B******t).

Source: Oath-Taking of Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Officials and Anti-Corruption Meet, March 6, 2018, Malacanang Palace, watch from 36:44 to 36:59

Sources:

International Criminal Court. Statement of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Mrs Fatou Bensouda, on opening Preliminary Examinations into the situations in the Philippines and in Venezuela, Feb. 8, 2018.

Oath-Taking of Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Officials and Anti-Corruption Meet, March 6, 2018.

Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Feb. 8, 2018.

Speech of President Rodrigo Duterte during 145th Founding Anniversary and 2nd Kanlahi Festival of Tarlac City, March 7, 2018.

(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative.)

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