Rights network to gov’t: Sovereignty does not mean running away from ICC
March 5, 2023

A network of human rights and church groups said the Philippine government must stop playing the sovereignty card in trying to shield government officials involved in the mass murder of suspected drug personalities from ongoing investigations by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Reacting to justice secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla’s latest address at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland last Thursday, March 2, the Philippine UPR (Universal Periodic Review) Watch said government is obviously engaged in an orchestrated effort to shield former President Rodrigo Duterte and other government officials from accountability.

The network added that Remulla and other government officials, including legislators such as Senator Robinhood Padilla and Surigao del Sur Representative Johnny Pimentel who separately filed resolutions against the ICC investigations, should be honorable and honest enough to admit that the Philippines “willingly, voluntarily, and solemnly endorsed and signed the Rome Statute” creating the ICC.

Philippine UPR Watch said the complaints filed against Duterte and others were made when it was still covered by the international treaty, mandating the ICC to continue its investigations despite the Philippine government’s withdrawal in March 2019.

In his March 2 address, Remulla said it was an overreach and a violation of the founding principles of the ICC to conduct the investigation when the Philippines is no longer part of the ICC.

“We draw the line, as any sovereign state must, when an international institution overreaches and departs from the boundaries of its creation. Upon this context, the Philippine Government rejects the ICC’s decision to resume investigations over alleged crimes committed during the anti-illegal drug campaign,” Remulla said.

But the Philippine UPR Watch said protecting the country’s sovereignty does not mean running away from international commitments, more so if the investigations are being done in accordance with the ICC’s mandate and procedures.

“On the other hand, how is it not a departure from justice when a government flees from its commitment just to provide escape investigation and prosecution of political allies from wrongdoing by a body it was part of?” the network countered.

The network also disagreed with Remulla’s claim that the criminal justice system in the Philippines is working perfectly when only 20 officers were prosecuted against a backdrop of at least 6,000 deaths.

Remulla’s address was part of the ongoing 52nd Regular Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva where he is also expected to appear later this month to announce which of the nearly 300 recommendations by other States in the last UPR review on the Philippines last November the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government would accept.

A Philippine UPR Watch delegation would also be attending at the latter half of March to urge the government to stop “cherry-picking” which recommendations to support and reject.

“A government that claims to be openly and actively engaging in international human rights mechanisms such as those being discussed in the ongoing 52nd UN Human Rights Council [should support recommendations] involving accountability to wrongdoings such as extrajudicial killings, red-tagging, ICC membership restoration and weaponization of laws against human rights defenders, activists and critics,” the network said.

“The Marcos Jr. government should begin earnestly committing to full justice and complete accountability that would make the country respected in the eyes of the world. A State that runs away from justice and accountability is a pariah, deserving of being called out by the rest of the civilized, decent world,” it added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

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