Philippines confirms ICC’s move to conduct “preliminary examination” on Duterte’s anti-drug campaign

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MANILA. –– The Philippines said yesterday that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is moving to conduct a “preliminary examination” on President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug campaign.

Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque told a news conference, the Philippine mission in The Hague was informed by the ICC’s prosecutor’s office that the court is “opening preliminary investigations on the alleged acts associated with the campaign against illegal drugs covering the period of July 2016.”

Roque reiterated that “the preliminary examination is not a formal preliminary investigation,” but is merely a procedure conducted by the ICC to determine whether the case falls under its jurisdiction. He explained that “the preliminary examination is only to determine if there is reasonable basis to proceed to a preliminary investigation.”

After a preliminary investigation, he said the prosecutor would have to go to the pre-trial chamber of the Court for confirmation of charges before the charges can even be filed in the Court. He further stressed that there is no sufficient basis for the ICC to claim jurisdiction over cases involving the Philippines’ anti-drug campaign.

Roque explained that in order to exercise jurisdiction, the ICC has to establish the admissibility of the case, and the principle of complementarity should be implemented.

“This means that the ICC can only investigate criminal cases if the domestic courts are unable or unwilling to do so,” Roque said.

He also claimed that the acts attributed to Duterte’s anti-drug campaign could not be regarded as crimes against humanity. Roque said the campaign was a lawful exercise of police power, which aims to deal with the country’s drug trafficking problem.

“As a sovereign state, the Philippines has an inherent responsibility to protect its current and future generations by effectively addressing threats to the safety and wellbeing of its citizens, such as the proliferation of illegal drugs,” the spokesperson noted. Because the war against drugs is a lawful and legitimate police operation, it cannot be characterised as an attack against civilian populations,” he said.

Roque said the administration views the ICC’s preliminary examination as a “waste of the court’s time and resources” since the criteria to establish jurisdiction were not met.

Roque expressed confidence that the move would not go beyond preliminary examination. Nevertheless, Roque said Duterte welcomes the ICC move. He said he spent two hours with Duterte Wednesday night to discuss the issue.

“The president has said that he welcomes this preliminary examination because he is sick and tired of being accused of the commission of crimes against humanity,” Roque said, adding that “if need be,” Duterte “will argue this case personally and face the ICC.”

The ICC move stemmed from a complaint filed by Filipino lawyer Jude Sabio against Duterte in April last year for alleged “mass murder” in the Philippines.

In his 78-page complaint, Sabio requested that the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC “commit Duterte and his senior government officials to the Trial Chamber for trial and that the Trial Chamber in turn, after trial, convict them and sentence to corresponding prison sentence or life imprisonment.” Meanwhile, Roque slammed the administration’s critics, whom he said were behind the attacks against the war on drugs.

“Obviously, this is intended to embarrass the president. But the president is a lawyer; he knows what the procedures are. They will fail,” he added.

Roque maintained that Duterte continues to stand by his position to protect the Philippines against all threats to national security. – Xinhua

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