ICC should stand down, give way to local courts

Former president Rodrigo Duterte. File Photo

LOVE him or hate him, former president Rodrigo Duterte should not be investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the alleged extrajudicial killings during his term. If at all, the case should be handled by Philippine courts, which, as mentioned in a previous editorial, are already hearing 52 cases involving 154 police officers charged with crimes related to the previous administration's war on illegal drugs. Two have already been convicted.

Still, the ICC decided last month to resume its investigation of alleged “crimes against humanity” perpetrated under the previous administration. If that pushes through, it will struggle to be impartial.

The ICC statements already sound partisan, not to mention inaccurate.

For instance, its website says the “ICC's action is an important step toward accountability for the 'drug war' killings in the Philippines, which continue to occur on a daily basis and where activists and journalists face threats, harassment and even death for speaking out.”

If only the ICC visits the local news websites, it will see no shortage of people speaking out against the government and former presidents on a variety of issues, including Mr. Duterte's campaign against illicit drugs.

This country is not perfect, but those faults are not the responsibility of any foreign entity, especially one with a biased perspective of the local situation.

Obviously, the ICC does not grasp the severity of the drug menace in the Philippines. Before Mr. Duterte was elected president in 2016, drug syndicates were out of control. Nine of 10 villages, or barangay, across the country had been infiltrated by those criminal organizations, many of which were based abroad and operating in several countries.

Even after a brutal campaign, the previous government failed to dismantle all those syndicates. But to its credit, the incidence of drug-related crimes went down.

Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers said in a statement that Mr. Duterte's campaign kept the Philippines from becoming a “narco state.” He added that, as “chairman of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs during the whole Duterte administration, I have seen the gravity of the drug problem firsthand. My position gave me privileged access to all information on the real situation.”

He is one of the 18 lawmakers supporting House Resolution 780, which was filed last week by Deputy House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, herself a former president. The resolution supported the position of the incumbent government, underscoring the argument that the Philippines has a functioning and independent judicial system.

Earlier, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla said the ICC can rightfully conduct proceedings only in states without a functioning government and justice system. Clearly, that is not the situation in the Philippines.

And contrary to the ICC statement that Filipinos are too scared to speak up, some have been vocal against Mr. Duterte and the recently filed House resolution. One is Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, who said the alleged offenses of Mr. Duterte cannot be cleansed by the House laundromat. Mr. Lagman also argued that the Philippine judicial system was in “default” in favor of the former president. But that statement is not supported by facts. As mentioned earlier, there are several cases filed in court.

Wrong target

Meanwhile, where are the people investigating the criminals involved in the illegal drug trade? Surely, the ICC does not believe that they are defenseless and harmless.

What about the lives they have destroyed, or the economic costs that resulted from the lost labor productivity of drug users? What about justice for the victims killed by the syndicates in support of their billion-dollar empire?

People abroad may not realize that the most popular drug in the Philippines is “shabu,” the street name for methamphetamine hydrochloride. Shabu is nothing like the recreational drugs that some say should be legalized.

If anyone deserves to be investigated, it should be the drug cartels and their pushers. They are probably laughing at the ICC for going after their nemesis, Mr. Duterte. Hopefully, the ICC probe will not discourage the current and future governments from going after those criminals.

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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