By Atty. Arnedo S. Valera
Part Two: Criminalize any foreign official abusing our sovereignty
The Philippines is facing two drug wars.
First, the war between the government vs. drug lords, drug cartels, low-level drug offenders, police scalawags and corrupt politicians engaged in drug trafficking.
These are the drug-related legitimate operations that have caused more than 3,000 casualties and critics pegged it at 10,000 because they have included all nationwide homicides and murders, whether drug-related or not.
The second war is the war between and among drug carters vs. drug cartel, drug lords, police scalawags vigilantes and corrupt politicians, which have caused thousands of undetermined deaths and remain under active investigation.
These non-state actors, even prior to President Duterte’s assumption of office, have been killing and eliminating each other by the thousands to silence and/or cover up and protect their illegal, multi-billion international drug trade.
Anyone or any group that accuses President Duterte, the police and the military for all the killings nationwide not only unfairly presumes that the law enforcers are all killers out there with orders to kill anyone involved in drugs – but is also destroying the basic notion of accountability of non-state actors in the second face of the current Philippines’ War against Illegal Drugs.
That is why it is in the height of political hypocrisy for a U.S. Congressional Committee to conduct a hearing of a sovereign country whose political leader is enjoying more than 82% popularity and has adopted a bold, decisive and strict enforcement of its domestic laws to combat and eradicate the drug problem nationwide under the rule of law and within the role of law.
In our own backyard, it is important to underscore what U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in his address to the assembly of the Drug Abuse Assistance Resistance Education (DARE) last July 11, 2017 as follows: “Drug abuse has become an epidemic in our country today.
In 2016, it has claimed more than 62,000 lives lost to drug overdose (1,200 lives lost every week).” He noted that drug abuse is not only a concern about treatment but law enforcement prevention as well. He also acknowledged that drug trafficking is an inherently violent business, where there is a need for a strict enforcement policy, which the U.S. currently lacks.
The United States has been engaged in the drug war over the last decades. In Latin America, it adopted a policy of prohibition of targeting, manufacturers, suppliers, drug cartels and corrupt police, politicians, including heads of states involved in massive drug trafficking conspiracy. The U.S. has a $3-Trillion budget every year, or almost $2 billion dollars every month. Mexico’s drug war has caused more than 185,000 fatalities or casualties in legitimate drug war operations. Last June 2017, Mexico had 2,000 deaths in drug-related police legitimate operations. Do you see the ICC and human rights groups that are active in the Philippines raising the issue of Extra-Judicial Killings in Mexico? Clearly, the answer is No.
So, my message to them is this: If you truly want to help the Philippines in nation-building, and if you want to prevent the Philippines from becoming a Narco State, then you must view the Philippine drug war without any political agenda. You can exercise your right to demand accountability and give your constructive criticisms to strengthen the law enforcement agencies but not to weaken them, simply because you do not like President Duterte.
Otherwise, you are becoming alter-egos of the political opposition and unwittingly becoming an enabler for the drug cartels, drug lords, police scalawags, vigilantes and corrupt politicians involved in drug trafficking.
The Philippines’ Drug War continues to disrupt the unholy alliance between and among drug lords, drug cartels, narco politicians, police scalawags, vigilantes wrecking havoc in the multi-billion dollar illegal drug trade. To be sure, those involved in this unholy alliance will use all their resources to maintain the status quo and protect their business interests at all costs, and that includes supporting proponents of legitimizing and decriminalizing drugs in the Philippines.
Article 127 of the Rome Statute
Article 127 of the Rome Statute allows States to withdraw from the ICC. The Philippine Government should now determine that it is not in its interest to continue being in the ICC.
On 19 March 2018, the International Criminal Court (ICC) was officially notified by the United Nations (UN) that the Republic of the Philippines had submitted a written notification of withdrawal from the Rome Statute, the Court’s founding treaty, on 17 March 2018.
Withdrawing from the Rome Statute is a sovereign right of the Philippines.
The withdrawal took effect on 17 March 2019.
In withdrawing, the Philippines took the necessary step to protect its national sovereignty from interference in the strict enforcement of its domestic criminal laws and in conducting its own legal and legitimate national drug war, considering the unique circumstances it is now facing.
Even the United Nations Global War on Drugs admitted its failure after 62 years of adhering to its Policy of Prohibition i.e. targeting the suppliers, manufacturers and destroying the drug apparatus and drug personalities, because it failed one way or the other to consider the local and unique circumstances of affected countries.
The Philippines, despite its low budget in this drug war, has shown success in instilling national discipline and reducing the crime rates in significant fashion, creating a business climate conducive to investments from all countries, regardless of political ideology under the Duterte’s pursuit of an independent foreign policy enshrined in the 1987 Aquino Constitution, taking into account the paramount national interest of the Philippines.
The Philippines has also successfully eradicated the homegrown and internationally-inspired Maute terrorists who were bent on their goal establishing the Islamic State in the Philippines like ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. A strong President with political will, and the support of the other branches of the government, is making this possible.
Most recently, the Philippine tourism industry achieved a milestone with 6.6 million tourist arrivals in 2017 – despite all the political noise, security concerns and travel advisories. And yet those who seek President Duterte’s ruin prefer to overlook the significant gains achieved within a short period of time in his Administration in effecting meaningful social, economic and political changes in the country.
American Service Member’s Protection Act
I strongly recommend that the Philippine Congress enact a law similar to ASPA (American Service Member’s Protection Act of 2002) to address risks and secure its political gains in building a stable and strong Philippines.
The ASPA is not a declaration of war against the ICC but “it did the modern equivalent: “it authorized the President to use all means necessary, including military force, to free U.S. and allied military personnel and government officials detained by the ICC under the traditional conception of international law.
It would be an act of aggression warranting a military response for a foreign government (entity) to seize a current or former U.S. President, Cabinet or military officer for his official actions.”
ASPA also imposed severe restrictions on U.S. cooperation with the ICC, including prohibition on extradition; sharing of law enforcement information and provision of financial and material support.
Specifically, Congress made it “a Federal Criminal Offense for an official of the ICC, or a foreign government acting under the authority of the ICC, to indict, prosecute, detain or imprison American Personnel or Government Official for alleged war crimes.”
It is called a “Crime vs. Sovereignty” – “any person indicted for such crime would become a fugitive from U.S. Justice, subject to international arrest warrant and liable for prosecution if brought into the U.S. Custody.”
The Philippine government, especially Congress, should take steps to protect its police, military and the President from this orchestrated smear political propaganda, aimed at destroying the image of the country and its people. The government must continue to unite and to destroy any kind of intervention in the internal affairs of the country, especially in the enforcement of its domestic criminal laws and policies designed to eliminate corruption, and to eradicate the drug pandemic that is destroying the future of the next generation. The Philippines has the sovereign right to assert its inherent right, internal self-determination as an independent country and chart its own destiny.
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.