Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra on Friday hinted that the Philippine government may not be cooperative with the International Criminal Court pending the final ruling on its request for the restart of investigation into the drug war.
Guevarra made the statement when asked what possible legal recourse the government would take should the ICC proceed with its probe.
“We can appeal. The public can appeal the ruling that has jurisdiction, the Court is admissible, we can challenge that,” Guevarra said in an interview with CNN Philippines.
“In the meantime that there is no final ruling on administrability of the case or jurisdiction, I don’t think the Philippine government will extend a lot of cooperation to the ICC,” he added.
On Thursday, the Philippines asked the ICC not to resume with its investigation into the drug war, insisting that the international tribunal has no jurisdiction over it.
According to Guevarra, the ICC has jurisdiction over certain crimes only, such as genocide, crimes of aggression, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
All of these, even crimes against humanity, are not applicable to the Philippines. He said murder, enslavement, extermination, and persecution fall under crimes against humanity, the Solicitor General stressed.
Guevarra also said the murder or the series of murders must be “a systematic attack against a civilian population.”
When sought to explain if murder includes a systematic attack against those involved in drugs, Guevarra said it is not the definition of a crime against humanity.
“Our drug war is not even an attack. It’s a legitimate law enforcement operation. And if it’s an ‘attack,’ the attack is not against persons. It’s an attack against illegal activities,” the chief state lawyer pointed out.
Despite this, Guevarra admitted not all anti-drug operations that ended in the death of suspect or suspects were legitimate.
“That’s what we are investigating. Just because 6,000 people died, it doesn’t mean that all of them are illegal or unlawful. We have isolated them,” he said.
Guevarra also said it is unfair to say that the country’s investigation into the drug war cases is not genuine.
“Genuine is a very relative term. From our point of view, we’re doing a genuine investigation. It may be slow. Maybe the output at this point in time is still like this, but given enough time we will come up with results,” he said.
“Why would one say that it is not genuine simply for the reason that as of this time, this is only the output. That’s not quite fair,” he added.
The Solicitor General stressed that the government is conducting a genuine investigation.
“We are willing and we are able to do this. But give us ample time,” he said.
Asked what he meant by “ample time” and if it meant “another five years,” Guevarra cited the investigation process.
“In the case of the investigation for a criminal offense, the preliminary investigation should last a few months. And if probable cause is found, then you file that in court. Now when you file that in court, we meet all the various problems and challenges,” he said.
The Philippines withdrew from the Rome Statute, which established the ICC in March 2019 during the Duterte administration. Incumbent President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has said that the country has “no intention” in rejoining.