MALACAÑANG on Monday, October 7, shrugged off the supplemental motion filed by a human rights group before the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open an investigation into President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement that the Palace was "hardly surprised” by what it called a "cheap" political propaganda to discredit the President.
He said the charges hurled by rights group Rise Up for Life were "doomed from the very start.”
"Rise Up, as we understand, is a network of Church-based and sectoral organizations whose existence is bound by their sheer hatred and common despise against President Duterte and this Administration," Panelo said.
"This group of noisy anti-Duterte critics and detractors is known for resorting to political theatrics and gimmickry, which includes exploitating the grief and loss of widows and mothers whose husbands or children had been neutralized by the anti-narcotics campaign, to catch people’s attention with the objective of once again demonizing [Duterte] and his government," he added.
In a supplemental communication filed on October 3, Rise Up asked ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to consider "new facts, evidence and information in the exercise of her broad powers and authorities."
The group claimed that there was a government conspiracy to "deflate" and "manipulate" the number of people killed in the police's legitimate anti-drug operations since Duterte waged a war on narcotics trade in July 2016.
It said the Philippine National Police "manipulated the numbers, definitions and categorizations of deaths in their attempt to shield the perpetrators and cover up the actual number of deaths."
Rise Up noted that from 6,600 on June 18, the number of drug suspects killed by the drug war went down to 5,526 on June 30.
Panelo also cast doubt on Rise Up's motive, as he noted that the group's "trumped up figures" have "no factual basis."
"They know that the same allegations will not hold up in court. They are trying to blemish the legitimate operations of our law enforcement personnel, who were only forced to protect themselves in the performance of their duty to serve and protect the people, before an international tribunal which does not have jurisdiction over our country and its leaders," he said.
"If Rise Up has any basis for its submission then they should have the decency to honor the memory of those who died, and file actual complaints before our courts. Its immediate resort to the ICC, when our courts are able and willing to hear any and all cases in the country, shows that they are using the deaths to pursue its own selfish agenda," he added.
The Philippines officially withdrew from the ICC on March 17, a year after it submitted its intent to revoke its membership folllowing the international court's plan to conduct a preliminary examination on Duterte's war on ilegal drugs.
Disputing the fresh claim against Duterte's anti-narcotics drive, Panelo said the administration also deemed the death of any Filipinos as "a heavy toll that no country should pay for its preservation of its general welfare."
He said that Duterte, as the country's parens patriae (parent of the country), feels pain "when any Filipino is slain under whatever circumstance."
"But this is the monstrous tragedy of the scourge of illegal drugs. It is a challenge that any state, which has the mandate to secure its people from atrocity, must face and rise to it," Panelo said.
Panelo alleged that Rise Up merely wanted to "embarrass" the President who was then "busy working outside the country to promote the Philippines."
He added that the rights group's action was "foul," as it " runs contrary to our standard norm and behavior to be united for our leader every time the Chief Executive is in a foreign country building up the image of the country in the international stage."
"The Filipino people are intelligent and discerning. They cannot be fooled by this cheap political propaganda. We are confident that they will continue to solidly support the President for the remainder of his term and honor his efforts of serving and protecting them in obedience to the constitutional command," Panelo said. (SunStar Philippines)