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No ICC pawn

The International Criminal Court, or ICC, has been brazenly intervening in Philippine affairs, with the nation firmly asserting its sovereignty by positing that the ICC has no jurisdiction over it and that it has every right to be dubious of ICC’s global circus.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a quick look back at this controversy, which began in September 2021 when the ICC formally opened an investigation into alleged extrajudicial killings that occurred between 2011 and 2016, while Rodrigo Duterte was the mayor of Davao City and allegedly oversaw the “death squad” killings of hundreds of people.

The ICC probe also sought to look into alleged killings that happened between 2016 and 2019, during Duterte’s presidency. Duterte’s tenure would end in 2022, but Ferdinand Marcos Jr., his successor, would maintain the same stance that the Philippines has a fully functional judicial system and that the ICC cannot pass judgment on anybody within its borders.

In November 2021, the ICC probe was put on hold while the Philippines looked into the alleged extrajudicial executions on its own. However, the ICC judges would aver in January 2023 that the Philippine government had not shown that it was acting sufficiently to look into and prosecute the deaths. The ICC judges consequently gave the prosecutor permission to pick up the inquiry.

The verdict of the ICC judges has been challenged by the Philippine government through Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra, but the appeal is still pending. On Tuesday, 18 July, the ICC Appeals Chamber would rule on that appeal, and if the tribunal decides to carry on with its investigation, a standoff might arise between the country and the tribunal.

As Guevarra has stated, the ICC is still able to conduct its investigation even in the absence of assistance from the Philippine government. But since the ICC is viewed by many countries as a mere nuisance, it remains to be seen if that investigation would result in anything or whether its verdict would be enforceable.

The Philippines withdrew from the Rome Statute, the agreement that established the ICC, in 2018. By doing so, it demonstrated that it would not submit to the whims of the institution.

Still, the ICC persists in maintaining its legitimacy, stating that the alleged deaths took place before the Philippines withdrew its recognition. The Philippines is not deceived, however, contrary to the ICC’s apparent belief that laws and regulations may be bent to suit its purposes.

The Philippines won’t be a pawn in this game that the ICC is playing. It has the authority and moral ascendancy to defend its citizens and uphold its own laws. It is not just rude for the ICC to meddle in the country’s affairs; it’s nothing less than arrogance in full display.

As things stand, the nation has already started an investigation into the alleged deaths, negating the need for the ICC to get involved.

For instance, three police officers were found guilty of murdering Kian delos Santos, 17, during a drug raid in 2017. The three were given a sentence of 40 years in jail without parole and were ordered to pay P345,000 in damages to Kian’s family.

Now comes former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, a seasoned figure in Philippine politics. As Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, Enrile has adamantly stated that the Philippines will not comply with the ICC’s demands.

He emphasizes the need for the country to assert its sovereignty over any external body, particularly one with dubious intentions. Enrile’s perspective is supported by his knowledge and experience, and it is impossible to understate his influence on how the Philippines would deal with the ICC under the Marcos administration.

Will the Philippines buckle under the weight of ICC’s intransigence? Or will it uphold its will to safeguard its independence and seek justice according to its own standards? Before the week ends, we might find out with Tuesday’s ICC ruling on Guevarra’s appeal.

But one thing is certain: The Philippines has every right to object to the ICC’s overreach and political interference. This has evolved into a battle between an international institution’s arrogance and the rights of a sovereign nation.

Credit belongs to: tribune.net.ph

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