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Marcos’ declaration that PHL will not rejoin ICC a ‘terrible mistake’

Human rights groups and opposition lawmakers denounced President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for his declaration that the Philippines would not rejoin the International Criminal Court (ICC) under his administration.

In a statement to VERA Files, Kristina Conti, counsel for the Rise Up for Life and for Rights, a volunteer group providing legal assistance to survivors and families of drug war victims, said that Marcos Jr. made a “terrible mistake, and could prove to be a costly miscalculation not to rejoin the ICC.”

“Marcos’ decision about the ICC will be added [sic] political pressure in a country that is already simmering under great economic and social burden,” she claimed.

Conti, also a member of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, further warned that Marcos “will contend with a political storm with international impact” if he likewise decides not to cooperate with the investigation of the ICC. (See Rights groups cheer on ICC call for resumption of probe on Duterte’s drug war; Palace ‘exasperated’)

“When the people feel that the government cannot or will not protect them and their interests, and that the powerful can get away with anything, even murder, beyond alienation and disappointment, it is Marcos who should very well know how the people can turn their backs against and topple those in power,” she said.

For its part, the human rights group In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND) said Marcos protecting his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte and police-turned-senator Ronald Dela Rosa came as no surprise.

“It is not surprising that Marcos Jr. will protect Duterte and Bato against the charge of Crimes Against Humanity before the [ICC],” iDEFEND said.

Although Dela Rosa and Duterte are the principal executors of the drug war under investigation by the ICC, it is notable that the court has not issued arrest warrants against any suspects pending the conclusion of its probe.

iDEFEND, nevertheless, affirmed that it would continue advocating for justice for the drug war victims.

“[T]his will not deter the push for justice for the victims of serious human rights violations especially as they don’t control the judges of the ICC,” the group said. “Relatives’ support groups continue to engage the Court towards pursuing the investigation of wilful killings under the war on drugs.”

Although they acknowledged the prerogative of Marcos Jr. as decision maker, Sens. Risa Hontiveros and Koko Pimentel of the Senate minority bloc disagreed with the decision for the Philippines not to return as a state party of the ICC.

But Hontiveros hopes the president “will not undermine or block investigations of acts or violations that took place before the Philippines withdrew from the ICC.”

Mandato pa rin nila ang mag-imbestiga, kaya dapat hindi sila maharang sa kanilang trabaho. … Kung wala namang itinatago, dapat hindi matakot ang sinuman sa imbestigasyong ito,” Hontiveros said.

(They still have the mandate to investigate and they must not be prevented from doing their job. … If there is nothing to hide, no one should be afraid of this investigation.)

Marcos earned criticism after he told reporters during a visit to a vaccination center in Pasig City on Aug. 1 that “the Philippines has no intention of rejoining the ICC.”

He explained the purpose of his meeting last week with various department heads, including Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra and Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, was to be clear and study possible actions the government can take on the call of ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan to resume the drug war probe.

“So, para alam natin ang gagawin natin, if we will respond, if we will not respond, kung ano — kung sakali man sasagot tayo, anong magiging sagot natin; or possible din, basta hindi natin papansinin dahil hindi naman tayo sumasailalim sa kanila,” Marcos said.

(So we know what to do, if we will respond, if we will not respond, what — if we do respond, what will be our response; or also possible, as long as we ignore them because we are not under their jurisdiction.)

The ICC, on July 14, issued a call on drug war victims and the Philippine government to submit comments on the request of Khan to relaunch the full-blown probe into the drug war by Sept. 8.

On June 24, Khan announced his move to reopen the investigation after the government failed to prove that it is investigating all alleged crimes against humanity relative to the drug war. Khan alleged that around 12,000 to 30,000 Filipinos died under Duterte’s drug war from July 1, 2016, to March 16, 2019. (See ICC chamber invites victims, PHL government to submit ‘views, concerns’ on call to resume drug war probe)

Although the Philippines already withdrew as a state party to the Rome Statute, the ICC founding treaty, the Netherlands-based court already clarified that it retains jurisdiction over crimes that occurred in the country during its membership from Nov. 1, 2011, to March 16, 2019.