REJOINING the International Criminal Court (ICC) that we had withdrawn from in 2017 is by far the most illogical proposal I have ever heard in my career as a journalist in this country. It really doesn’t take much study to find out that such a move will hurt our country, even our economy, and yield zero benefits — if you know what the ICC is.
We joined the ICC in 2011 when this country was ruled by the self-righteous, sanctimonious Yellow cabal, which would have made the Philippines a member of the We Are the Global Guardians of Goodness Club, if there was such an institution. Among the lobby groups that pushed for it were organizations linked with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which has, since its founding in the 1960s, used “human rights” as an issue to criticize government.
Answer the following questions, and your head will spin as to why this is even an issue to hog headlines.
First question: Would you like the Philippines to be mentioned in the same breath as Afghanistan, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Darfur, Sudan, the Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Palestine?
Those are the countries where the ICC has undertaken or is currently undertaking allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity purportedly committed by their former leaders. If we rejoin the ICC, the absurd, baseless case filed by then opposition senator Antonio Trillanes 4th against then President Duterte and his administration that thousands were killed in his “war vs illegal drugs” will be resuscitated and investigated. The Philippines will be put on that list of countries barely out of the Stone Age, where human life is not valued.
The name of this institution, “International Criminal Court,” is so misleading. Under the so-called Rome Statute or treaty signed in 1998 by 120 countries, it can try only four kinds of crimes: genocide, “crimes against humanity, ‘war crimes’ and crimes of aggression.” Not by any stretch of the imagination could the casualties in Duterte’s anti-drug campaign be genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes — unless the ICC people don’t understand that the “war” in the “war vs drugs” phrase is merely the literary device called hyperbole used to dramatize the campaign.
The only two persons who’ve been convicted by the ICC so far are sub-Sahara African tribal-leaders-turned-generals Thomas Lubanga and Germain Katanga, both accused of ethnic massacres, murder, torture, rape and mutilation during the civil war in the Congo. All of the cases currently being heard by the ICC involve war crimes and crimes against humanity, all of which were alleged to have been committed by rival tribes during civil wars or in the course of state campaigns against a rebel group.
The Philippines, of course, is far more developed than the really primitive, barely-out-of-the-stone-age countries such as the Congo, Kenya or Uganda.
Do you want our country to be portrayed as one where the ICC is investigating war crimes, the result of practically pre-civilization tribal animosities? Don’t you think that that information will end up in some algorithm that ranks countries as to their adherence to justice and the level of peace and order — which in turn will be used in some other algorithm to determine how much foreign banks would charge as interest for their loans to our companies and government, which eventually would help bring down our economy and raise prices?
True, there were cases of ruthless executions by the police of suspects allegedly involved in selling illegal drugs. But there were only at most a dozen such alleged incidents, and the entire machinery of intelligence services of the US working through several unwitting media outlets, mainly Rappler, couldn’t get any evidence that Duterte ordered these killings. Several cases, in fact, were filed in the courts by state prosecutors, resulting in the conviction of a number of policemen, notably in the case of the teenager Kian Loyd de los Santos in Caloocan.
If Duterte were guilty of crimes against humanity, why would his daughter win by a landslide with 32.2 million votes for vice president in the 2022 elections, half a million votes more than what Marcos got, and why did Duterte’s endorsement of Marcos become the most important factor for his win?
You cannot hide mass murders or crimes against humanity. If Duterte had undertaken such crimes in his war against illegal drugs, Sara’s and Marcos’ rivals would have won by landslides.
Second question: Or, would you prefer that the Philippines be mentioned in the same breath as nations that didn’t join the ICC — ruled by clever rulers fiercely defending their countries’ sovereignty, such as the US, India, China, Indonesia, Russia, Mexico, Vietnam and Turkey?
The US, whose operators here and abroad had harped on Duterte’s alleged human rights violations, is not a member of the ICC, officially on the grounds that its constitution requires that American citizens can be tried for alleged crimes on US soil only by its judicial system — the same argument Duterte and his officials had put forward when he ordered the Philippines’ withdrawal from the ICC in 2019.
The US is among the 42 states — representing 60 percent of humanity — that have refused to be fooled into joining the ICC. Note that these states based on different ideologies — from liberal democracy to one-party rule —agree on this one thing: That the ICC violates their sovereignty.
Among the 10 members of Asean, only Cambodia is a state party to the ICC in order, as one scholar put it, to send a “powerful message to its population on the mass crimes and violations of humanitarian law experienced during the Khmer Rouge regime (in which over were killed) would not be met with future impunity.” We do not have any instances of mass crimes on the scale of crimes against humanity.
Third question (addressed to President Marcos, Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, and Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra): By having the Philippines rejoin the ICC, do you really want to be converted into mere minions of one of the most opportunistic Filipinos ever to have served as senator — Antonio Trillanes 4th?
We wouldn’t have heard of the ICC; it wouldn’t be of any interest at all to Filipinos if not for Trillanes’ filing of the suit in 2017, which was entirely a propaganda operation. It was intended, at the very least, to demonize Duterte in order to pave the way for the victory in the presidential race of a Yellow candidate (Trillanes’ province mate Leni Robredo) in the 2022 elections. The suit was so absurd that not even the Yellow and Red lawyers supported it. The only lawyer joining Trillanes was a small-time Davao lawyer Jude Sabio, who withdrew his complaint two years later because, he said, he wasn’t paid the amounts Trillanes promised him.
But Marcos — if he gets the Philippines to rejoin the ICC — will not just be converted into a minion of Trillanes but also of the US. The ICC operation was way out of Trillanes’ league. He had no background at all in law, much less international law. Trillanes had never heard of ICC before and would have confused it with UCC coffee.
The ICC operation logically could have only been the operation of a more sophisticated entity, a US agency, after the Americans blew their top over Duterte’s pivot to China, with the President freezing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement’s plan to convert our five facilities then into when-needed American military bases. Duterte claimed that it was financed by a Filipino American lady based in New York.
The template for the arbitration was the arbitration case against China that the US got the Aquino 3rd government to file in 2013, which even provided top Washington, DC lawyers to handle it. The case, however, yielded nothing for the Philippines’ maritime claims, although it was extremely successful as a propaganda machine that demonized China.
Fourth question: Can you really trust the ICC as a professional investigative body and court when the 2021 report of its prosecutor Fatou Bensouda recommending investigation relied almost entirely on the biased media reports of the avowedly anti-Duterte Rappler, Amnesty International, and three other outlets? It was basically a cut-and-paste job of anti-Duterte articles by these American-financed institutions.
In the report’s very first page, it claimed: “The total number of civilians killed in connection with the War on Drugs between July 2016 and March 2019 appears to be between 12,000 and 30,000.” These figures were those reported by biased media (as I have conclusively debunked in many of my columns). How can a prosecutor in a court file a case based on what appears in media, which legally is mere hearsay?
The actual total number of casualties was 6,000 at the end of Duterte’s term, less than 200 of which appeared to be extrajudicial executions for various reasons. (See my February 2023 two-part series, “ICC report vs Duterte based solely on Rappler, biased media reports.”)
And last question, addressed to Marcos and his officials: Do you really want to make the Dutertes your political enemy and dismantle the Marcos-Duterte alliance that won the elections for you at this time when the country’s economy hasn’t yet completely rebounded from the pandemic years and faces strong headwinds such as the Russia-Ukraine war, the Israel-Hamas war that could disrupt prices of coal and oil? That without doubt is the impact of getting the country to rejoin the ICC. Do you think Duterte has lost his charisma that he cannot call on his followers for a political mobilization to defend himself? Do you think the ICC can deputize the US Special Forces as sheriffs to arrest Duterte?
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