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House joint panel swiftly passes resolutions urging ICC cooperation

House joint panel swiftly passes resolutions urging ICC cooperation
The seat of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Netherlands is seen in this photo release by the International Commission of Jurists, a non-governmental organization advocating for human rights. (ICJ / Release) 

MANILA, Philippines — Resolutions urging the Marcos administration to cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s investigation have been approved by a House joint committee, with its proponents insisting that respect for the rule of law trumps relations with the former president’s defenders.

The House joint panels on human rights and justice approved three resolutions on Wednesday calling on the current government to work with the ICC’s ongoing probe of the alleged crimes against humanity committed during the Duterte administration’s drug war.

The committees also approved a motion by Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay, 1st District) to combine the House resolutions with their counterpart in the Senate, which was filed by Sen. Risa Hontiveros, as a concurrent resolution of both chambers.

These resolutions — which are meant to express a chamber’s position but do not have the force of law — are gaining ground in both chambers of Congress even as former President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies, including Vice President Sara Duterte, have publicly criticized lawmakers pushing for Marcos to cooperate with the ICC.

The three House resolutions approved by the joint panel are House Resolution 1477 authored by Rep. Bienvenido Abante (Manila, 6th District) and Rep. Ramon Gutierrez (1-Rider Partylist), House Resolution 1393 authored by the Makabayan bloc, and House Resolution 1482 authored by Lagman.

‘No one is above the law’ 

During discussions of the measures, human rights committee chairperson Abante said that the Philippine government’s cooperation with the ICC “would demonstrate that no one is above the law.”

Abante also said he took exception to the “name-calling” remarks made by former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque after he filed a resolution seen by many opposition members as a change of tune in the lower chamber.

Just months ago, another House resolution — declaring an “unequivocal defense” of Duterte from the ICC — was filed in the lower chamber.

RELATED: Arroyo leads House allies in ‘unequivocal defense’ of Duterte, ‘drug war’

“This is about principles, not personalities,” Abante said.

“Keep in mind that this resolution is also about protecting the right to due process of those being investigated,” Abante added.

Citing principles of transparency and accountability, the lawmaker also said that the government’s willingness to cooperate with the ICC and “address allegations head-on” also builds the credibility of the local justice system.

“This resolution is not questioning the credibility of the domestic justice system. We know it’s working. The question is: Does the ICC know it’s working when there are accusations being hurled by our own people?” the rights committee chairperson said.

During his sponsorship speech, Lagman said that rejoining the ICC — a matter now “under study” according to the president — is not the “principal issue” of the three resolutions.

Lagman emphasized that the current Philippine government can cooperate with the ICC despite former President Rodrigo Duterte’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute in 2018, which took effect in 2019.

“Consequently, rejoining the ICC at the moment is not a precondition to the government’s cooperating with the ICC and its prosecutors,” Lagman said.

“It’s well settled that when jurisdiction is laid or vested, it continues unimpeded or unabated,” Lagman added.

Marcos told reporters last Friday that proposals for the country to rejoin the ICC are now “under study” but maintained that the House resolutions urging his administration’s cooperation with the international tribunal are “not unusual.”

During the Duterte administration’s six-year deadly “war on drugs,” government records show at least 6,000 people were killed in police operations, but human rights groups estimate that the true number may be as high as 30,000. — Cristina Chi

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