VIEW FROM CALUMPANG: Diego Cagahastian

ICC invited at the Senate

Apr 14, 2023, 12:49 AM
Diego S. Cagahastian

Diego S. Cagahastian


CALUMPANG, Tayabas City -- Meditating and writing from this rural and idyllic enclave, it occurred to me that it would soon be a test of mutual respect.  

The International Criminal Court (ICC) wanted to push through with their investigation of former President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody and controversial war on drugs and was seeking the cooperation of the Philippine government.

Then our Senate wanted to make out a clear picture of the issues surrounding this legal initiative. Would the high and mighty in the ICC cooperate? It has become a complementarity issue among institutions.

The latest news is that the Senate is launching a probe that would have officials of the International Criminal Court (ICC) involved in investigating the Duterte administration’s bloody war on drugs testify before a congressional hearing.

Sen. Francis Tolentino, chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, said that ICC officials are being invited to appear before the inquiry to be conducted by his panel.

He said preparations for the inquiry are still “a work in progress,” but some initial communications – through parliamentary counterparts in the Netherlands – have already been made to invite ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan, former ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and law professor Mervyn Cheong of the National University of Singapore.

Senator Tol said that since the inquiry was prompted by resolutions filed in the Senate seeking to defend the previous administration, former president Rodrigo Duterte is being eyed among the resource speakers to be invited.

Tolentino clarified that the public hearing "has something to do with the Senate resolutions. If they (ICC) want us to recognize the work they do, they should also recognize what the Philippines is doing by way of a Senate hearing,” he said.

There are two resolutions filed in the Senate by Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Robin Padilla in connection with the ICC probe.

“We consider this as a sign of mutual respect if they will join, if they will attend. Otherwise, if they decline, or not attend, out of courtesy, we will of course, accept that,” Senator Tol added.

Estrada’s Resolution 492 seeks the Senate condemnation of the ICC’s decision to resume the probe into the drug war that human rights groups said claimed over 20,000 lives.

Estrada said the decision of the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber authorizing the resumption of the probe is “disrespectful of the Philippines’ sovereignty and undermines the country’s fully capable judicial system.”

In Senate Resolution 488, Padilla sought “to declare unequivocal defense” of Duterte against any investigation or prosecution by the ICC.

Padilla’s resolution also pointed out that Duterte believed that the widespread, serious and rampant illegal drugs problem was “an existential threat to the country’s social fabric” and that fighting illegal drugs, along with corruption and other crimes, “is a prerequisite for achieving genuine growth and prosperity.”

The Senate probe would not be in conflict with President Marcos’ pronouncement last week that the Philippines would be “disengaging” from the ICC, which has rejected the government’s appeal to stop its probe.

This is because the President’s pronouncement to cut off communication with the ICC was directed toward the executive branch, particularly the DOJ and its sub-agency Bureau of Immigration (BI), which can bar the tribunal’s prosecutors from entering the country. The Senate as an independent institution can proceed with its own investigation.

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