ICC probers barred from entering PH: DOJ

The Philippine government would not allow members of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to come to the country to conduct an investigation into the drug war waged by former president Rodrigo Duterte, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said on Saturday. DOJ Senior Undersecretary Raul Vasquez said President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has made a firm stance to end dealings with the ICC after its latest move to reject the Philippine government appeal to suspend its investigation. ‘Dahil nasa investigation stage pa lang, gusto po nilang mag-umpisa dito para mag-imbestiga. At gusto nilang pumunta dito (Because they are still in the investigation stage, they want to start the investigation here. They want to come here),’ Vasquez said during the Saturday News Forum at Dapo Restaurant in Quezon City. ‘Sa ngayon, desisyon niya (Marcos) ay hindi na makipag-engage sa ICC (As of now, his decision is to disengage from the ICC). That means to say we won’t coordinate and we would not allow them to come here as ICC.’ He said the ICC prosecutors could visit the country, ‘subject to limitations.’ Vasquez also warned that ICC members who would attempt to enter the country to conduct an investigation might be charged with a crime of usurpation of authority. ‘So, they can come here. But before they can even come here, they have to go through the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) under international relations protocols. Hindi po sila puwedeng pumunta dito nang basta-basta (They cannot just come here),’ he said. Quizzed about the possibility that the ICC might issue an arrest warrant against Duterte and other personalities linked to the drug war, Vasquez emphasized that the ICC has ‘no enforcement mechanism.’ The ICC, he said, would need the help of its member-states to order the arrest of those involved in the Philippines’ anti-narcotics campaign. ‘Pupunta sila dito, sinong lalapitan nila? Pulis, Armed Forces, DOJ? Eh hindi na nga kami nag-i-engage eh (If they come here, from whom would they ask for help? The police, Armed Forces, DOJ? We would no longer engage with them),’ Vasquez said. ‘Wala naman silang otoridad na gumawa ng mga bagay-bagay tungkol sa pag-imbestiga (They do not have the authority to conduct an investigation) for example because that is a mandate of our law enforcement agency. They’re not members of the law enforcement agency.’ He pointed out that the ICC need not interfere with the Philippines’ affairs because the country has an ‘existing and operating’ justice system and accountability mechanism. The Marcos administration, he said, is ready to accommodate those who will testify on the supposed human rights violations associated with the war on illegal drugs. ‘Unfortunately, mula noon, last year hanggang ngayon, kami po ay naghihintay pa rin para dumulog sa amin ang sinumang mayroong impormasyon (since last year, we have been waiting for anyone who could provide us with vital information),’ Vasquez said. In an interview in Alicia, Zamboanga Sibugay on Friday, Marcos said the Philippines would no longer communicate with the ICC following the latter’s decision to go ahead with its investigation despite an appeal to suspend by the government.

Source: Philippines News Agency