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Lawmakers divided over defend-Duterte resolution

Former president Rodrigo Duterte. File Photo

TWO members of the House of Representatives presented opposing opinions on Friday on the House Resolution to defend former president Rodrigo Duterte from being prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the extrajudicial killings committed during his war on drugs.

House Resolution 780, submitted by House Senior Deputy Speaker and Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and 18 other congressmen, states that the country still had a “functioning and independent judicial system” that could investigate allegations that Duterte committed crimes against humanity in his drug war.

Arroyo led the call to defend Duterte after the ICC authorized its prosecutor last January 26 to resume the investigation into the killings during police anti-narcotics operations.

On Friday, Surigao del Norte Representative and Chairman of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs, Robert Ace Barbers, voiced his full and unequivocal support for HR 780.

“As chairman of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs during the whole Duterte administration, I have seen the gravity of the drug problem firsthand. My position gave me privileged access to all information on the real situation. The war on drugs abated what could have been an irreversible disaster, that of our country becoming a narco-state,” Barbers said.

Duterte’s “tough resolve to fix the problem gave us all the hope and the breathing space we badly needed,” he said.

“To vilify him is to say that his policy on the war against drugs was a big mistake. It should be the other way around. More importantly, his policy should not be equated to the situation on the ground. Policy is different from implementation. If those who were tasked with implementing the policy overdid it and committed abuses, the former president should not be faulted for them,” Barbers said.

But Albay First District Rep. Edcel Lagman said the purported crimes against humanity committed by Duterte “and his cohorts could not be washed away in the House of Representatives’ laundromat.”

“It does not deny that from 6,000 to 30,000 alleged drug suspects, mostly from marginalized sectors, have been summarily killed in the wake of Duterte’s murderous campaign against illegal drugs,” Lagman, who is also the president of the Liberal Party, said.

“While the justice system in the Philippines is functioning, the fact is that not a single case has been filed and prosecuted against Duterte for his alleged crimes against humanity,” he added.

Lagman said he believes that the ICC, which has jurisdiction over crimes committed before the Philippines withdrew from the Rome Statute at Duterte’s direction, is the appropriate forum for investigating the killings committed during the anti-drug campaign.

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