MANILA — The Philippine Embassy to The Hague said it is certain that the decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to conduct a preliminary examination into crimes against humanity charges against President Rodrigo Duterte would be a “wake-up call” for the court to find out it has “utterly no jurisdiction” over the Philippines under the circumstances.
A preliminary examination is part of the ICC Office of Prosecutor’s (OTP) mandate under the Rome Statute, where it is tasked to probe whether there is a “reasonable basis” to conduct an investigation into a situation.
The embassy said it is not an investigation, but merely an “initial step” to determine whether an investigation is necessary.
The OTP will open a preliminary examination when it appears from the information it has received and gathered that an act falls within the ICC’s jurisdiction.
The embassy said the threshold, therefore, for its decision to open a preliminary examination is “very low” and is not based on a thorough examination of the facts and of all sides, which is precisely why it initiates a preliminary examination.
The embassy believes certain parties have portrayed the campaign against illegal drugs “unfairly,” on which basis the OTP decided to initiate the examination.
“The information conveyed by these parties are, in fact, biased and politically motivated,” it said.
In a statement, it stressed that the government has been, and continues to be “guided by the rule of law embodied in its Constitution, statutes, and its long-standing human rights tradition.”
As a sovereign state, it pointed out that the country has the inherent responsibility to protect its current and future generations “by effectively addressing threats to the safety and well-being of its citizens”, such as the scourge of illegal narcotics and its link to other forms of criminality.
It also explained that the administration’s anti-drug program is a legitimate law enforcement operation.
Any alleged human rights violation related to the campaign is being investigated, the embassy said, adding that several erring police officials have already been charged.
“There is no such policy to target innocent civilians as this is, indeed, prohibited by the Philippine Constitution and laws,” it said.
From its end, the embassy is confident that the OTP will be objective in its assessment and find the allegations to be completely unfounded.
“We also trust that, in view of the Philippines’ functioning criminal and judicial systems, the Office of the Prosecutor will find that there is no reasonable basis to proceed to an investigation on the situation in the Philippines,” it ended.
Not a judgment
The embassy made the remarks after the OTP informed the embassy of its plan to open a preliminary examination on the alleged acts associated to the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs, covering the period from July 2016.
The ICC has jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression, sins considered the most serious crimes of international concern.
The embassy said “according to the communications sent to the OTP, crimes against humanity were allegedly committed.”
Meanwhile, the OTP, on the said communication, clarified that a preliminary examination is not an investigation of any individual, nor is it a judgment or sanction against the Philippines, which is a State Party to the Rome Statute in good standing.