SOLICITOR General Menardo Guevarra said on Wednesday he would meet with President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to discuss other options available for the Philippine government following the denial by the International Criminal Court-Appeals Chamber of its plea to suspend the implementation of the pretrial chambers’ (PTC) January 26, 2023 decision authorizing its prosecutor to resume the investigation on killings related to the anti-illegal drug war campaign of the Duterte administration.
“I’ll discuss possible options with the President,” Guevarra said when asked if the Office of Solicitor General (OSG) will withdraw its formal appeal filed on March 13, 2023 seeking the reversal of the January 26, 2023 ruling of the ICC-PTC in light of the directive issued by President Marcos to “disengage” from any contact with the ICC.
The President made the directive after being informed about the recent setback of the Philippine government before the ICC-Appeals Chamber.
“And so at this point, we essentially are disengaging from any contact, from any communication, I guess, with the ICC,” Marcos said in response to the March 27 ruling of the appeals chamber.
“We don’t have a next move. That is the extent of our involvement with the ICC. That ends all our involvement with the ICC since we can no longer file another appeal,” he added, at an impromptu interview with reporters.
However, Guevarra said he prefers that the government wait for the ICC-Appeals Chamber to finally resolve its March 13 appeal.
“Personally, though, since we have already filed the appeal, we are not going to lose anything further by waiting for its resolution,” Guevarra said.
In another interview, Guevarra said he would explain to the President that the March 13 appeal of the government is still pending despite the ICC-Appeals Chambers’ denial of its request to halt the implementation of the January 26 decision pending the final resolution on the merit of its appeal.
“I am sending a memo today for the President to explain to him the status of our appeal with the ICC Appeals Chamber. I’ll have to clarify with him that the appeal itself is still pending, it has not been denied, it has not been dismissed,” Guevarra said over ABS-CBN News Channel.
He said the President may have gotten the impression that the main appeal was already rejected with the March 27 ruling, considering that the ICC did not formally notify the government in advance of its decision.
In its March 27 decision, the ICC-Appeals chamber said the government failed to offer “persuasive reasons” in support of its request to suspend the pre-trial chambers’ decision.
“Somehow along the transmission of the information, the President might have gotten [the impression] that it was the appeal itself that was dismissed,” Guevarra explained.
It can be recalled that the Philippine government filed last February 6, 2023 a notice of appeal before the ICC-Appeals Chamber, seeking suspension of the implementation of the January 26 decision pending the final resolution on the merit of its appeal.
Solicitor General Guevarra argued that the activities of Prosecutor Karim Khan in relation to his investigation into the country’s situation “would lack any legal foundation and encroach” on the Philippines’s sovereignty.
On Tuesday, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights said the appeal filed by Manila “was a courteous assertion of our sovereignty, its denial has no binding effect.”
Sen. Francis N. Tolentino asserted that the Philippine government appeal “will not clothe the International Criminal Court [ICC] with jurisdiction, as there was none in the first place. ICC should recognize the fundamental pillar of the international legal order, which is sovereignty.”
Labor hits ‘disengage’ line
Meanwhile, the country’s largest labor coalition said the decision of President Marcos Jr. for the government to “disengage” from the ICC over the Hague-based body’s probe on local drug-related killings was another blow to the country’s international reputation.
In a statement, the Nagkaisa Labor Coalition condemned the “parochial” decision of the President to cut any government contact or communication with the ICC.
Not only was the move an injustice for the victims of the killings, but it also put the country in a bad light for tolerating such crimes, said the alliance.
“The government’s decision to sever ties with the ICC is counterproductive as it sends a wrong message to the international community that justice prevailed under the previous administration,” Nagkaisa said.
“A transparent and impartial investigation by the ICC is crucial for ensuring justice for the victims and their families, as well as for preventing future human rights violations,” it added.
The ICC is currently seeking to investigate the over 6,000 “extra judicial killings” during the time of former President Rodrigo R. Duterte.
Marcos maintained the probe can no longer push through after the country left ICC jurisdiction in 2019. The ICC’s insistence on looking into the killings was an attack on the country’s sovereignty, he said.
Nagkaisa, however, reiterated the country still has the obligation to cooperate with ICC since the covered killings happened between November 1, 2011 and March 16, 2019, while the country was still covered by the Rome Statute—the international treaty which created the ICC. “The President should have acted [like] a real statesman by ditching his fear of offending a political ally rather than lose face before the international community,” Nagkaisa said.
During the 2022 elections, Vice President Sara Z. Duterte, the daughter of former president Duterte, was the running mate of Marcos.