Sunday, August 25, 2019

ICC personnel welcome to Philippines as 'tourists,' not 'probers'

PERSONNEL of the International Criminal Court (ICC) can enter the Philippines as "tourists" but not as "investigators" of President Rodrigo Duterte's crackdown on illegal drugs, Malacañang said Monday, March 18.

Speaking to Palace reporters, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Duterte government would exhaust all means, including barring ICC members from going to the country, should international tribunal attempt to conduct a probe into the President's war on narcotics trade.

Panelo issued the stern warning to ICC, insisting that it cannot proceed with its plan to investigate Duterte since it has no jurisdiction over the Philippines and fails to conduct a preliminary investigation on the drug war.

"Certainly, we'll not allow any attempt at interfering with the sovereignty of this country. That includes everything to stop them from committing any acts that will be violative [of] our laws... [They can enter the country] but as tourists," the Palace official said.

"ICC cannot proceed with any proceedings that it has started specifically because it said that they conducted a preliminary examination and not a preliminary investigation," he added.

His remarks came after the Philippines officially leaves the ICC on Sunday, March 17, or a year after notifying the United Nations about its revocation of membership from the international court.

The Philippines's withdrawal from ICC came after ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced in February 2018 the international body's decision to conduct a preliminary examination on the alleged crimes against humanity committed by Duterte, in connection with his war against illegal drugs.

Duterte is facing two communications before the ICC. The first one, filed in April 2017 by lawyer Jude Sabio, was the basis of the ICC's preliminary examination of Duterte's drug war.

Sabio earlier said that the Philippines's withdrawal from the ICC cannot prevent the international court from carrying out an investigation on Duterte's brutal war on illegal drugs.

Panelo cited that under the Rome Statute, a treaty that established the ICC, "any preliminary investigation or/and proceeding relative thereto, it commenced prior to the withdrawal of the State Party."

But based on the information posted on ICC's official website, Bensouda "must conduct a preliminary examination, considering such matters as sufficient evidence, jurisdiction, gravity, complementarity, and the interests of justice," before she can investigate.

Panelo told ICC investigators that Immigration officials would not allow them to travel to the Philippines, if their purpose is to investigate Duterte.

"Immigration officials have the discretion to deny new entry if they feel na ang gagawin mo rito eh either labag sa batas o manggugulo ka lang dito (that you'll violate our laws or you'll sow chaos here)," he said.

"Well, they can come here as guests, visitors, pwede 'yun (that's allowed). Pero (But) any move that will be deemed as a violation of our laws, may problema sila doon (they will have a problem)," the Palace official added.

Panelo also warned the ICC personnel that the Duterte government has ways of knowing if the international tribunal conducts an investigation in the Philippines.

"I'm sure we will know [if they go here to investigate]," he said.

"[If they do that, we will] smile at them and tell them nicely, 'You can't do it here. If you persist, you will be deported because you will be violating certain [laws],'" Panelo added. (SunStar Philippines)


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