Philippines: President’s Attorney Threatens To Have ICC Investigators Arrested
By Camille Elemia
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s lead lawyer threatened on Monday to have International Criminal Court officials arrested if they set foot in the Philippines to investigate the brutal drug war carried out by Marcos’ predecessor.
Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile said he would not permit ICC investigators to enter the Philippines after The Hague-based court agreed last week to reopen an investigation into the anti-drug campaign. It left thousands of Filipinos dead during the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte (2016-22).
“As the lawyer of the president, I will not allow [it]. As far as I’m concerned, I will not recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court of justice. They have no sovereign power over us,” Enrile, 98, told reporters.
“If they will come here, if I were to be followed, I will cause their arrest,” said Enrile, who served as defense minister during the martial law regime of the president’s namesake father, longtime Philippine dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Expressing its dissatisfaction with the Philippine government’s actions, the ICC last week approved its prosecutor’s request to restart the investigation into the allegations of crimes against humanity under President Duterte.
“The various domestic initiatives and proceedings, assessed collectively, do not amount to tangible, concrete and progressive investigative steps in a way that would sufficiently mirror the court’s investigation. …,” the ICC said.
“Following a careful analysis of the materials provided by the Philippines, the chamber is not satisfied that the Philippines is undertaking relevant investigations that would warrant a deferral of the court’s investigations,” it said.
The Philippine government, led by its justice secretary, slammed the tribunal’s ruling as “unreasonable,” while the solicitor general promised to exhaust all legal remedies possible to appeal the decision.
According to official government numbers, about 8,000 suspected addicts and dealers died in the Duterte administration’s drug war, but human rights groups said the figure could be three times higher.
Also on Monday, the Philippine National Police called on the international court to respect the sovereignty of the Philippines and acknowledge its justice system, which, the PNP chief said, was working.
An internal investigation by the Department of Justice in 2021 said that in many cases, police officers involved in the killings did not follow protocol and could be prosecuted.
At a press briefing, national police chief Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said his department would cooperate with the ICC if it respected Philippine jurisdiction.
“We are not hiding anything. They can submit information if they can help, then we will do the process,” Azurin said.
“We don’t see any reason why the ICC would come in and investigate because the PNP, in tandem with the Department of Justice, are continuously investigating the killings,” he said.
In August 2022, Marcos Jr. rejected proposals for the country to rejoin the ICC, saying the government would conduct its own investigation into extrajudicial killings in Duterte’s drug war.
In 2019, Duterte pulled the Philippines out of the Rome Statute that established the tribunal, after the court began an inquiry into his drug war.
The ICC, however, still has jurisdiction over alleged human rights violations when the Philippines was still a member from 2011 to 2019. Part of this period covered Duterte’s time as the mayor of Davao city.
Basilio Sepe and Jojo Riñoza in Manila contributed to this report.