Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla on Wednesday said the Department of Justice (DOJ) will study the call of the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives for the government to support the International Criminal Court ‘s (ICC) investigation into alleged crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.
At a news briefing, Remulla said the DOJ would look into the basis on call of the Makabayan bloc in coming up with House Resolution 1393, urging the government to cooperate with the ICC in light of former President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s alleged admission that he used intelligence funds to conduct extrajudicial killings (EJK) on his constituents in Davao City.
He added that the DOJ would review existing jurisprudence issued by the Supreme Court (SC) in connection with the ICC’s jurisdiction over the Philippines, which has withdrawn its membership from ICC in 2019.
Remulla was referring to the SC’s decision issued in 2021 that dismissed for being moot and academic the petitions to declare as null and void Duterte’s unilateral decision to withdraw from the Rome Statute of the ICC.
The decision, penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, held that the President, as primary architect of foreign policy, is subject to the Constitution and existing statute.
Thus, the Court said that “the power of the President to withdraw unilaterally can be limited by the conditions for concurrence by the Senate or when there is an existing law which authorizes the negotiation of a treaty or international agreement or when there is a statute that implements an existing treaty.”
The Court ruling also stated that under Article 127 (2) of the Rome Statute, “withdrawing from the Rome Statute does not discharge a state party from obligations it has incurred as a member.”
“We need to review the records of Congress…we need to ask for the transmittal from Congress of their deliberations and debates that led to the filing of the resolution,” said Remulla.
Remulla added that existing laws should also be studied, including the Court’s 2021 decision.
“We need to study our existing laws and the Court’s latest decree or jurisprudence on the matter. If it was just an obiter dictum (something said in passing and not officially part of the ruling) or already a precedent,” Remulla said.
When asked if the DOJ has changed its stance on the ICC’s jurisdiction over Duterte, Remulla said it has not abandoned its previous position but stressed the need to carefully review relevant internal laws, constitutional provisions and existing laws.
On the possibility that the DOJ will change its stand against the ICC probe in the future, Remulla replied, “We cannot totally say that there is no chance because our laws are subject to amendments.”
In his previous statements, Remulla strongly opposed the ICC’s intervention in the investigation being conducted by concerned agencies on alleged EJKs committed during anti-illegal drug operations.
Remulla said the ICC would not get any cooperation from Philippine authorities in serving warrants to personalities who are subject of its investigation.
He also pointed out that the ICC has lost jurisdiction over the country after its withdrawal as a member in 2019.
On the other hand, Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra maintained his position that the ICC has lost its jurisdiction over the country.
“The ICC appeals chamber failed to rule categorically on our jurisdiction challenge. So we maintain our position that the ICC can no longer exercise jurisdiction over the Philippine situation long after our withdrawal from the ICC way back in 2019,” Guevarra said.
“The ICC prosecutor is free to pursue his investigation anyway he wants, but he cannot expect any cooperation from the Philippine government. As far as we are concerned, any and all complaints against the conduct of the war on drugs must be lodged before our own prosecutorial and judicial system,” he added.
Last July, the ICC announced it will resume its investigation into the bloody anti-illegal drug war of the Duterte administration after it denied the appeal of the Philippine government to set aside the January 26, 2023 decision of the pre-trial chambers authorizing the resumption of the probe.