Sun. Jul 25th, 2021
May be a cartoon of one or more people and text
Fatous Bersouda from the eyes of cartoonist Steven Pabalinas.

By Atty. Arnedo S. Valera                                                                                                         

Part One: Ridiculous Prosecution by Retiring ICC Prosecutor

I am usually not a believer of political conspiracy theories. But in this particular instance, common sense and my antennae are telling me something looks curiously orchestrated.

I refer to the following seemingly unrelated events:

  1. the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatous Bersouda’s announcement that ICC will conduct a preliminary examination (first stage to a possible prosecution) on the Philippines’ War against Illegal Drugs,
  2. the scheduled talk on Press Freedom and the Drug War by Senator Antonio Trillanes in California,
  3. the continual drum beating of the political opposition, as well as some international and national human rights groups with political and social agenda of their own.

The different voices have something in common.

They have been singing the same destabilizing tune since President Rodrigo Duterte took office barely two years ago, after his overwhelming electoral victory. And since then, President Duterte has continued to enjoy more than 80% approval rating and trust of the Filipino people.

The grand design is simple: Make the human rights violations allegedly committed in this drug war stick and over time, erode the trust and confidence of the Filipino people in President Duterte and his administration.

I am beginning to view with amazement some of the ICC elements becoming a part of this scheme and making the Philippines a “legal experiment.”

Consider: The Philippines is the only country whose popular president with solid gains in the nation’s progress is to be a subject of a preliminary examination, a possible investigation and indictment for a purely national and domestic campaign against a national scourge that indeed was largely ignored, by Duterte’s predecessors.

Why has the ICC not conducted any preliminary examination, investigation and prosecution of drug wars in Latin America – Mexico, Columbia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras – where the fatalities and casualties of the drug war based on legitimate police operations of these governments have reached hundreds of thousands for the last three decades, with Mexico alone recording a high 2,000 casualties for only one month, June of 2017?

Mind you, the main goal is not simply to make the Philippines accountable under the Rome Statute which established the ICC, but there appears to be a sinister plot to oust President Duterte by extra Constitutional means. And that is where the Philippine government needs to start digging on the apparent conspiracy behind all of these destabilization efforts.

ICC a ‘seriously flawed institution’

I remember the Clinton and Bush administrations declaring that the ICC is a “seriously flawed institution…” and declaring that “it lacks prudent safeguards against political manipulation, possessing sweeping authority without accountability to the Security Council and violates national sovereignty by claiming jurisdiction over the national and military personnel even of non- state parties.

China opposed the ICC on the basis that “it goes against the sovereignty of nation states, that the ‘Principle of Complementarity’ gives the Court the ability to judge a nation’s court system, that war crimes covers internal as well as international conflicts, that the Court’s jurisdiction covers peacetime crimes against humanity (unlike Genocide and War Crimes, Crimes vs. Humanity has not had a definition with genus and specific difference i.e. it is unsettled.

In fact, India objected because of the broad definition adopted of crimes against humanity; inclusion of the crime of aggression weakens the role of the UN Security Council, and that the Prosecutor’s right to initiate prosecutions may open the Court to political influence.”

The United States, in a position shared with Israel and Sudan, having previously signed the Rome Statute, withdrew its intent of ratification on May 6, 2002.

Jude Sabio, the lawyer from Misamis Oriental who filed a complaint against President Duterte before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2017, died of cardiac arrest in Manila on Monday, April 12, 2021. He was 57. According to Sabio who withdrew the case 2020, it was Antonio Trillanes who engaged his services to file the case. He reportedly tested positive for Covid-19. Cartoon by Steve Pabalinas.

Philippines’ War vs. Illegal Drugs

The human right groups continue to mischaracterize the Philippines’ War against the Illegal Drug Trade. Once again it bears repeating that official reports show there are no state-sanctioned killings in this drug war.

The concept of Extra-Judicial Killings (EJKs) has been abused by political propagandists and opponents of the Duterte administration, and the negative campaign continues to be echoed by Human Rights groups in the U.S.

Similar to the U.S., the drug problem in the Philippines is a national scourge, in which strict law enforcement policy and rehabilitation/treatment policies must be combined to save the country from becoming a narco-state and ensure hope for the future of the young generation.

Lumping together and attributing more than 9,000 to 10,000 nationwide killings, homicide, murders into one category and branding them as Extra-Judicial Killings perpetrated by the government, its police and military, is not only unfounded and baseless but also shows ignorance of basic human rights law.

For the record, below are the real numbers. Sources: Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Philippine National Police (PNP), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Bureau of Customs.

1. There were 79,193 Anti-Drug operations conducted from July 1, 2016 to November 27, 2017;

2. More than 118,000 drug personalities have been arrested from July 1, 2016, November 27, 2017.

3. There were more than 1.3 million drug addicts and surrenderees from July 1, 2016 to July 26, 2017;

As of September 2017, more than 16,000 drug dependents are undergoing Department of Health (DOH) drug rehabilitation programs.

Of this figure, 2,236 drug dependents have already completed DOH drug rehabilitation program and more than 14,000 drug surrenderees have received livelihood and skills training by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

4. There were 3,967 drug personalities who died in anti-drug operations from July 1, 2016 to November 27, 2017.

5. More than 16,000 Homicide cases were under investigation from July 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017.

6. More than 4,700 barangays have been declared drug-free as of November 27, 2017.

7. The value of seized illegal drugs including drug paraphernalia from July 1, 2016 to November, 27, 2017 is P18.92 billion.

8. Regarding Philippine National Police (PNP) Internal Cleansing: Recommended for dismissal from service from the period of July 2016 to December 2016 is 51, and 375 during the period from January 2017 to December 2017 – for a total of 426.

9. Dismissal of two cops involved and filing of murder charges regarding the death of 19-year-old Carl Arnaiz. (November 2017) ; Dismissal of Police officers due to drug-related charges: Tinio and Pagdilao; NCRPO relieved 1,000 police personnel of the Caloocan City police station to undergo retraining and reorientation.

More than 1,900 drug-related investigations have been carried out against law enforcers during July 1 2016 to June 15, 2017;

10. Regarding Lowering Crimes: 8.44% decrease in total crime volume; 20.56% decrease in index crimes; 23.61% decrease in robbery incidents.

11. 88% approves of the drug war; 78% of Filipinos express appreciation to the Duterte administration’s work in fighting criminality.

Secretary Harry Roque is a lawyer and the only Filipino in the List of Counsels in the International Criminal Court.

(To be continued)

Arnedo S. Valera is a licensed New York and Philippine Attorney for more than 30 years. He has a Master’s Degree in International Affairs with International Law and Human Rights as areas of Specialization in Columbia University, NY. He has a Bachelor of Laws degree from Ateneo De Manila University. Currently, he is the Executive Director of the Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC) and Chairperson of the US Pinoys for Real Change in the Philippines (USPRCP) both based in Metropolitan Washington D.C.

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