Palace: PH still won't cooperate with ICC probe despite SC ruling

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 22)— The Philippine government will still not cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) should it launch a probe into the Duterte administration's war on drugs, despite a Supreme Court ruling saying it is compelled to do so, Malacañang said Thursday.

"Unfortunately, the lack of enforcement mechanism cannot compel the Philippines to cooperate when the President has clearly said we will not do so," Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque told reporters in a briefing.

One of the high court's remarks in a 106-page resolution dated March 16 but released only on Wednesday was that the Philippines is still obligated to cooperate with ICC proceedings that commenced before the country formally withdrew from the tribunal.

President Rodrigo Duterte first announced the country's pullout from the ICC in March 2018 — citing the supposed attacks against him and his administration, as well as the court's attempt to put him under its jurisdiction. The withdrawal took effect in 2019.

"Even if it (state party) has deposited the instrument of withdrawal, it shall not be discharged from any criminal proceedings. Whatever process was already initiated before the International Criminal Court obliges the state party to cooperate," read the SC ruling.

"Until the withdrawal took effect on March 17, 2019, the Philippines was committed to meet its obligations under the Rome Statute. Any and all governmental acts up to March 17, 2019 may be taken cognizance of by the International Criminal Court," it added.

Pressed about the matter, Roque argued that the part of the resolution was "obiter dictum," or an incidental opinion by a judge that is not binding.

"An obiter dicta does not really have jurisprudential value. It is on the side. It is not on the merits, it is not the main ruling of the court, and we are not of course at in any way concerned about that obiter," Roque said, maintaining there will be "no changes" in the government's position on the matter.

The release of the SC's decision comes weeks after the request of outgoing ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda for a probe into alleged crimes against humanity committed in Duterte's anti-drug campaign. The executive department at that time also rejected the ICC's move.

Latest government data showed over 6,000 people have died in the war on drugs since 2016, but local and international human rights groups believe the death toll is much higher.