Duterte gov’t finds ICC prosecutor’s call to probe Philippines’ war on drugs ‘regrettable’

Marje Pelayo   •   June 15, 2021   •   163

MANILA, Philippines — The outgoing prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Fatou Bensouda has sought permission to open a full investigation into the Philippines’ drug war under President Rodrigo Duterte.

The official argued that there is a basis to believe the government’s war on drugs has committed ‘the crime against humanity of murder’ which she claimed had killed thousands of people, including innocent children.

Just in time for her last day in office as ICC prosecutor on Tuesday (June 15), Bensouda argued “that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the Crime Against Humanity of murder was committed” in the Philippines between July 1, 2016 and March 16, 2019, based on a that a preliminary probe that began in February 2018.

That same period was when Duterte ordered the withdrawal of the Philippines from the ICC.

In response, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Tuesday issued a statement saying that the Philippine government finds Bensouda’s announcement “regrettable”.

The statement underscored that the Inter-Agency Review Panel headed by the Secretary of Justice is still conducting reinvestigation on cases involving fatalities in the campaign against illegal drugs, and that the Panel should be allowed to finish such work.

“The International Criminal Court is a court of last resort. The States Parties to the Rome Statute envisioned a court with a complementary, not primary, jurisdiction for the prosecution of the persons most responsible for the most serious crimes of international concern,” the statement added.

“The Rome Statute requires the Court and the Office of the Prosecutor to respect and defer to the primary criminal jurisdiction of the concerned State Party, while proceedings are ongoing in the latter. The precipitate move of the Prosecutor is a blatant violation of the principle of complementarity, which is a bedrock principle of the Rome Statute,” it further said.

The department also said enumerated what it called concrete and progressive steps the Deterte administration has taken to address concerns in the conduct of the anti-illegal drugs campaign. It added that the government has recently finalized with the UN a Joint Program on Human Rights.

All these, the department said, “affirm the Philippines’ adherence to human rights norms and its long track record of constructive engagement with international and regional partners in human rights promotion and protection.”

“The midnight announcement by the current Prosecutor on the eve of her end of term also preempts the prerogative of her successor to make a full evaluation of the cases that he will prosecute. By her act, the outgoing Prosecutor likewise undercuts the attractiveness of the Rome Statute to States that may be considering accession,” the DFA said.

US Defense chief Austin to meet with Duterte on July 29 – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   July 29, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte is set to meet with United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III at Malacañang on Thursday, July 29.

In a statement, the Palace said Austin will pay a courtesy call on Duterte upon his arrival in the Philippines.

Austin is on an official visit to Southeast Asia that includes stops in Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The visit aims to bolster the US’ ties with the said nations.

He will stay in Manila until Friday.

The US Defense chief’s visit highlights the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and the United States and the 70th anniversary of the signing of the PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty, the Palace said.

Executive Secretary Salvador Mediadea, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr., Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez, and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert Borje are expected to attend the courtesy call, it added.

Palace welcomes Robredo initiatives in fight vs COVID-19

Robie de Guzman   •   July 28, 2021

Vice President Leni Robredo

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Wednesday agreed with Vice President Leni Robredo’s recent remark on the need to prioritize the response to the COVID-19 crisis as it welcomed the latter’s efforts in the fight against the pandemic.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Palace appreciates Robredo’s initiatives to ensure success in combating COVID-19.

“We welcome the initiatives of the Vice President in the fight against COVID-19 which she enumerated in her Ulat sa Bayan and we are in no way diminishing her efforts in this trying time,” he said.

“Any contribution, including policy recommendations from the political opposition, to ensure the successful fight against the pandemic, is much appreciated,” he added.

Robredo earlier said that the response to the pandemic and its effects should be the priority and that it should be mirrored in the budget allocation, meeting agenda and other government efforts to raise vaccine confidence.

She also suggested for the government to offer incentives to those who are hesitant to take the COVID-19 vaccine instead of threatening to apprehend them.

Malacañang also agreed with Robredo’s message that it is the Filipinos who helped and came to the rescue of fellow Filipinos amid the pandemic.

Roque said that in fact, President Rodrigo Duterte paid tribute to all frontline workers during his final State of the Nation Address on Monday.

“We reiterate: Now is the time to focus on COVID-19 and help the national government in achieving population protection; so together, we will recover and have a happy Christmas and a better future for all Filipinos,” he added.

Palace assures public nothing to worry about Duterte’s health condition

Robie de Guzman   •   July 27, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Tuesday assured that President Rodrigo Duterte is in good condition and that there is nothing to worry about his health.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque gave the assurance following concerns about the president’s health after he nearly lost his balance on his way to the podium to deliver his sixth and final State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.

The president seemed to have slipped while he was walking towards the House session hall but Roque said the 76-year old chief executive has no “extraordinary problem.”

Duterte, at one point during his speech, stuttered and said he could not pronounce some words correctly and joked about catching COVID-19. He also remarked if there was an ambulance on standby.

He also appeared to be catching his breath, and said that he might just die there.

This is not the first time that rumors about the president’s health have surfaced. Some even claimed about Duterte suffering a mild stroke when he was out of the public eye for several days in April 2021.

But the Palace has repeatedly dismissed these claims and said that Duterte remains “fit and healthy” and continues to discharge his functions as the head of the government. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

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