The recent declaration made by Department of Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla that he would personally block prosecutors from the International Criminal Court (ICC) from entering the
country and investigating cases and gathering evidence in connection with the war on drugs of former president Rodrigo Duterte seems a bit exaggerated on the part of the justice secretary in trying to prevent a probe by the ICC in the country. His insistence on personally preventing the ICC prosecutors from stepping into Philippine soil only highlights the present administration’s worry on the insistence of the ICC in conducting its investigation on the alleged crimes against humanity committed by former President Duterte during his bloody campaign against illegal drugs in the country.

It would have been better if Justice Secretary Remulla simply relied on previous reasons and justifications made by the government in preventing the ICC from trampling on our sovereignty as a nation such withdrawal from the Statute and that the present justice system is working effectively.
To recall the International criminal court (ICC) was established under the so called Rome Statue signed by 60 countries in 1998, the Philippines being one of the signatories. The main job of the ICC which is based in the Hague is to prosecute those accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

For our edification war crimes include “torture, mutilation, corporal punishment, hostage taking and acts of terrorism. This category also covers violations of human dignity such as rape and forced prostitution, looting and execution without trial.” War crimes can only be committed during times of war. Genocide meanwhile includes “all acts committed with the intent to destroy a national,
ethnic or religious group.” And finally Crimes against humanity “are acts committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, such as murder, deportation, torture and rape.

The ICC prosecutes the perpetrators even if the crimes were not committed in times of war.”
For the ICC to acquire jurisdiction or be competent to hear a case on the abovementioned crimes
several conditions must be present namely, the country where the offence was committed is a party to the Rome Statute or the perpetrator’s country of origin is a party to the Rome Statute. Also the ICC may only exercise its jurisdiction if the national court (the local courts of the country where the offense was committed and is a member of the Rome Statute or the offender’s country is a party to
the Rome Statute).

Now the Philippines was previously a signatory to the Rome Statute but in March 17, 2018 a written notification of withdrawal was deposited by the country and which withdrawal from the Statute
took effect on March 17, 2019. Of course the jurisdiction of the ICC will still apply for those cases that happened before March of 2019 related to the war on drugs, when the country is still a party to the Rome Statute and this is what the said international court is counting on to continue with its
investigation and possible prosecution of the cases.

However, it is important to note that one very important factor that will greatly affect the authority and jurisdiction of the ICC to probe the drug war cases in the country is when the regular local courts are effectively discharging their mandate of dispensing justice for those alleged victims in the war on drugs. In November 29, 2018 the Caloocan Regional Trial Court Branch 125 the sala of
Judge Rodolfo Azucena sentenced to life imprisonment three police officers (police officer 3 Arnel Oares, PO1 Jeremiah Pereda, and PO1 Jerwin Cruz) after finding them guilty of murdering Kian Loyd Delos Santos in an alleged drug sting operation.

This case falls under the anti-drugs war campaign of the former administration of Duterte. Again, just recently Expolice officer Jefrey Perez was found guilty by the Navotas Regional Trial Court Baranch 287 of the 2017 killing of Carl Arnaiz and Reynaldo “Kulot” De Guzman and was sentenced to life in prison without the benefit of being eligible for parole. This case was also attributed to the
war on drugs of the previous administration.

These therefore are very clear instances where the regular local courts have effectively discharged their duties in dispensing justice for those killed unlawfully during the torrid campaign of the war on drugs in the country. Evidently national courts in the country are very able and willing to do their job and so the ICC has no reason or justification whatsoever to intrude in the affairs of a sovereign nation such as the Philippines because the present justice system works in dispensing justice to those wrongfully killed during the war on drugs campaign.

Amianan Balita Ngayon