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Thursday, February 29, 2024

The hot potato

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Will the Supreme Court of our land sanction the current president’s volte face after he has ‘studied the matter’ and thus allow the former president to be tried by a foreign court?

Should we or should we not?

This Hamlet-like question confronts government now, as recent developments in the HoR have triggered flip-flopping positions by the administration on the issue of whether the country will now allow the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands to have jurisdiction over Rodrigo Roa Duterte, et al, on accusations of gross human rights violations pertinent to his war on drugs, which claimed thousands of lives (numbers vary from one accusation to another, or official government figures) during his presidency or even before that, when he was yet mayor of Davao City.

Taking affront supposedly for the former president’s labeling the House of Representatives as the “most corrupt institution” in an SMNI interview weeks ago, some House members filed a resolution asking the Philippine government to cooperate with the ICC which is set to prosecute the former president, a senator, and even the current vice-president, among others.

After first reading and referral by the Ways and Means Committee, hearings immediately began, presided over by Manila’s sixth district Rep. Bienvenido Abante.

Strangely, one recalls that after just a month into his presidency, President Marcos Jr. stated “the country has no intention of rejoining the ICC” – a position he consistently maintained even during his presidential campaign.

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Recall too that the country pulled out of ICC membership in 2019 after a case was filed against FPRRD, et al, in the court.

But after Vice President Sara Duterte called on the HoR to respect the president’s declaration that we will not allow the ICC to interfere in our justice system, Malacanang suddenly demurred, and averred that the “government is studying the matter.”

From flat NO to vamos a ver.

Most Filipinos have the perception that international bodies created by the United Nations have jurisdiction over all countries of the world. This just isn’t so.

Note that even as the US keeps referring to the PCA ruling on the South China Sea issue after FPBSA III’s government filed a protest against China’s incursions into our EEZ and what we call the West Philippine Sea, it is not till now, a signatory to UNCLOS.

And the US maintains all US citizens accused of crimes on its soil must be tried only within their territory.

Even among ASEAN countries, there is no unanimity of membership in the ICC. Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand. As of 2019, the Philippines ceased to recognize the Rome Statute that created the ICC.

Our own Supreme Court has declared our courts have jurisdiction over cases of human rights violations and other grave offenses where the accused is a Filipino citizen.

So why should we now submit to ICC jurisdiction, let alone, “study the matter?” Here a legal conundrum may exist.

And this is where the political ‘hot potato’ now roils the nation into the maelstrom of internal conflict.

During the birthday celebration of Atty. Fred Lim, former PAGCOR president and supremo of the Lex Talionis Fraternitas last Friday, Nov. 24 where this writer was present, citizen Duterte jokingly stated before his fraternity brothers and former high government officials that he is “not worried” over the ICC case.

“My lawyer, referring to former Executive Secretary Bingbong Medialdea, told me ‘not to worry.’ So if the ICC tries to jail me, I will insist that Medialdea joins me in jail” said Duterte over gales of audience laughter.

But seriously, how would the majority of Filipinos who have time and again given their highest approval and trust rating to then president and even now, as citizen Duterte, react should the current administration decide to rejoin the ICC and/or submit him and even his daughter to the jurisdiction of the ICC?

Will the Supreme Court of our land sanction the current president’s volte face after he has “studied the matter” and thus allow the former president to be tried by a foreign court, thereby affirming that our judicial system is a failure?

This is the ‘hot potato’ that will stir this politics-crazy country for months to come.

Or is this merely a carefully-crafted and timed ploy by the political enemies of Duterte and his daughter to get him to stop his simmering tirades against them to escalate into a torrent of angry accusations?

If this is their agenda, as one who has been a long-time friend and supporter of Duterte, let me just state: you ain’t seen nothing yet.

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