PH gov’t appeal vs. ICC drug war probe resumption a rehash - lawyer

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 20) — A lawyer on Monday said there is nothing new in the government's appeal for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to reverse its decision to resume the probe on the Duterte administration’s war on illegal drugs.

“As to the substance, it’s a rehash of what they have already been saying before the pre-trial chamber,” Kristina Conti, an assistant to counsel at the ICC, told CNN Philippines’ The Source.

Conti said since the plea is already with the Appeals Chamber, it means that “they have already lost a decision before the Pre-trial Chamber.”

“I would say, based on the merit, these matters have already been passed upon and it will allow the ICC to reiterate and stand firmer on its decision that one, the ICC still retains jurisdiction even if the Philippines is no longer a member,” she added.

On March 14, the Philippines, through the Office of the Solicitor General, filed a 50-page appeal with the Appeals Chamber. 

The government reiterated that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the country since its official membership ended in March 2019.

It listed four grounds to reverse the tribunal’s decision, including that the Pre-Trial Chamber erred "in law in finding that the Court could exercise its jurisdiction on the basis that the Philippines was a State party 'at the time of the alleged crimes' and that the 'ensuing obligations' of the Rome Statute remain applicable notwithstanding the Philippines withdrawal from the Statute."

Conti, who is also secretary-general of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers – National Capital Region, however raised a concern on a part of the said appeal.

“I note with alarm a paragraph in the appeal of the Philippine government that they think that perhaps by the end of an investigation in the Philippines, there would only be a low-level or a mid-level official that may be held accountable for this,” she noted.

The lawyer said this would be contrary to what they have experienced on the ground. Low- and mid-level officers have claimed that they are only acting on the orders of higher officials, she added.

“There is somebody else that we can clearly point to and he can be held accountable for that with his public speeches and very fiery statements about the war on drugs and killings and that is (former) President (Rodrigo) Duterte. We can even include Senator Bato dela Rosa who served as chief of police of the Philippine National Police,” she explained.

Duterte and Dela Rosa repeatedly said they will not cooperate with the ICC investigation.

The senator even said the probe on supposed human rights violations during the controversial drug war will lead to nowhere. The country’s justice system is enough to give justice to the victims, he added.