President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief legal counsel on Wednesday accused International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of playing politics with her inquiry into alleged extrajudicial killings of suspected drug pushers in the war on drugs.
In a statement, Duterte’s legal counsel Salvador Panelo said it was clear that Bensouda and her office are playing politics in an attempt to besmirch the popularity and reputation of President Duterte.
“The Philippine government does not sponsor any unlawful act that may result in any killing or violent activity. Nor does it allow any widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population,” he said.
Panelo took exception to a report from Bensouda’s office that crimes against humanity were committed under the Duterte administration.
Bensouda said in her 2020 Report on Preliminary Examination Activities that her office may ask for authorization to conduct an investigation on the Philippines justice system.
Panelo reminded the ICC to observe the principle of complementarity and not meddle in the affairs of the Philippines, a country that does not observe the Rome Statute.
The Philippines’ withdrawal in 2019 from the Rome Statute that created the ICC “removed our country from its jurisdiction,” Panelo said.
“With no authority to proceed, it becomes clearly evident that what Bensouda and her office are doing is playing politics in an attempt to besmirch the reputation and popularity of President Duterte,” he said.
Panelo said that the report, which he referred to as political propaganda against Duterte, is irrelevant and immaterial to the Philippines and its domestic affairs since the ICC does not have jurisdiction over the country.
But the Commission on Human Rights on Wednesday called on the Duterte administration to acknowledge the report and address its findings.
It also called for greater transparency and accountability from the government in the movement towards providing redress for cases of human rights violations.
The Philippine National Policeon Wednesday said the ICC needs to show evidence to support its claims that the government has committed human rights violations and crimes against humanity in the conduct of its anti-illegal drugs campaign.
The chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Wilkins Villanueva, blamed the opposition for feeding the ICC the wrong information about the government’s war one drugs.
He cited surveys showing the President had an approval rating of 91 percent, and that eight in 10 Filipinos approved of the war on drugs.
The chairman of the House committee on dangerous drugs on Wednesday dismissed as “grossly wanting from facts and full of propaganda” the report of the ICC.
“While the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor calls its information browsing as ‘reasonable basis’, the report seems more like propaganda against President Duterte,” Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers said.
“How can there be reasonable basis when Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda admits that she has yet to ‘open an investigation into the situation in the country in the first half on 2021”, Barbers added.
Barbers also noted that “Bensouda further admits that her study is based on ‘available information,’ which obviously means information provided by the complainants.”
“Clearly the story is one-sided and the findings premature at most,” he added.
“If this is the quality of investigation that we expect from Prosecutor Bensouda, then we cannot expect justice at all,” Barbers said. “At best the report reflects her ‘reasonable bias’ against President Duterte.”
The Kabataan party-list, on the other hand, welcomed the ICC findings.
“According to Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s report, the information available provides a reasonable basis to believe that the crimes against humanity of murder, torture and the infliction of serious physical injury and mental harm as other inhumane acts were committed on the territory of the Philippines between at least 1 July 2016 and 16 March 2019,” the Kabataan party-list said.
“This only exposes the hollow promises made by Duterte to the international community regarding his supposed respect and commitment for human rights,” the group added.