Robredo meets with UN officials to push for health-based anti-drug campaign

Marje Pelayo   •   November 12, 2019   •   749

Vice President Leni Robredo

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo is pushing for a stronger, community-based drug rehabilitation program as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Drugs (ICAD).

Robredo believes that the community has an important role to play in solving the illegal drug menace in the country.

The meeting identified all existing and effective anti-drug programs that other countries have been implementing which can be applied also in the Philippines.

“One of the key learnings of the experiences of other countries is the emphasis on the public health approach and how that can be given equal importance together with the law enforcement approach,” explained USec. Philip Dy of the Office of the Vice President.

Prior to this, Robredo convened the core members of the Community Based Drug Rehab Alliance (COBRA) in an initial attempt to involve the private sector in the government’s war against illegal drugs.

Based on data, 90 percent of drug dependents across the country can be considered ‘occasional users’ who need help from the community.

Robredo is expected to meet again with member agencies of ICAD for follow-ups in the coming days. – MNP (with details from Vincent Arboleda)

Duterte vows to hold accountable operatives who ‘acted beyond bounds’ in drug war

Marje Pelayo   •   September 22, 2021

President Rodrigo Duterte in his speech on Tuesday (September 21) at the 76th United Nations General Assembly has vowed to hold accountable anyone who went beyond bounds in his administration’s drug war.

He stressed that his administration “has a mandate and an obligation” to his people and all criminals will be dealt “with the full force” of the Philippine law.

“Those found to have acted beyond bounds during operations shall be made accountable before our laws,” he said.

Duterte said the Philippine government has finalized with the UN a joint program on human rights, a model for constructive engagement between a sovereign member state such as the Philippines and an international body.

“Meaningful change, to be enduring, must come from within. The imposition of one’s will over another – no matter how noble the intent – has never worked in the past. And it never will in the future,” he said, implying his rejection of the probe set by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The chief executive admitted that achieving such a goal “has not been without challenges.”

Thus, he informed the UN that he had instructed the country’s Justice Department and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to review the conduct of his administration’s campaign against illegal drugs.

Complainants ready to support ICC on probe vs. Duterte war on drugs

Marje Pelayo   •   June 16, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Complainants in the Philippines’ drug war issue said there won’t be any problem even if the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte won’t cooperate in the investigation that was sought by former International Criminal Court Prosecutor (ICC) Fatou Bensouda.

According to Atty. Kristina Conti of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) who stands as one of the legal counsels of the complainants, they are more than willing to support the investigation by providing witnesses and pieces of evidence.

“Kung usapin naman access doon sa witnesses doon sa mga dokumento na hindi makapasok sa PIlipinas, pwede naman kami gumawa ng paraan na kami yung mga witnesses yung lalabas ng bansa,” Conti said.

She said that although officials of the Duterte government have the right to remain silent about the issue, the complainants have the right to access evidence under the Freedom of Information Law, especially if the killings involved their loved ones.

They believe justice will be served as culprits in the crime will soon be put behind bars.

“Hindi kami sasalalay doon sa kung ano ang sasabihin nila. Hindi kami sasalalay kung ano ang aaminin nila. Sasalalay kami doon sa lakas namin. The strength of the prosecution will rely kung ano yung aming ebidensya,” the lawyer added.

Atty. Neri Colmenares who also stands as one of the legal counsels of the complainants expressed confidence that the case will yield positive results in their favor.

“We are very confident na magawa and of course hopefully ang bagong presidente sa 2022 will not protect President Duterte lalo na kung wala na siya sa pwesto,” he said.

The NUPL said they expected the administration’s refusal to cooperate in the probe which was obvious when the national government decided to withdraw from the ICC sometime in 2019 when attempts to investigate the so-called extrajudicial killings in the Philippines surfaced.

“Alam ito ni Secretary Roque bilang familiar siya sa ICC. States have the responsibility to fulfill their duties even after they have left the ICC kasi itong imbestigasyon na ito ay nasimulan noong miyembro pa tayo hindi pwedeng aalis na lang tayo tapos bahala na,” Conti argued.

The group is asking President Duterte that, for the sake of fairness, if the Chief Executive chooses to keep mum on the issue, he should at least allow the investigation and provide protection to the complainants and the witnesses.  MNP (with reports from Dante Amento)

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

Marje Pelayo   •   June 15, 2021

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.

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