OSG mulls over moves on ICC’s request for comment on probe

THE Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) said it is studying its possible actions on the request of the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) for the Philippine government to give its comment on the proposed reopening of the investigation of the bloody anti-illegal drug campaign of former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra also said he would have to get the positions of the Department of Justice  (DOJ), the Department of Foreign Affairs  (DFA) and other stakeholders on the recent development before announcing the government’s official response.

“The OSG is considering several options, such as challenging the jurisdiction of the ICC/admissibility of the case, or continuing to leave our lines of communication with the ICC open. We shall decide on our final course of action after consultations with the DFA, the DOJ, international law experts, and the office of the president,” Guevarra said.

Aside from the Philippine government, the ICC also sought the comments of the drug war victims and their families on the proposal of ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan to reopen the probe.

Guevarra has said he would also talk with President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to discuss the ICC matter.

“PBBM has not had the occasion to discuss the ICC case thoroughly with anyone, but I intend to consult with him about it very soon,” he said.

When asked if the Marcos government will continue to represent the Duterte government in the case before the ICC, the solicitor general replied: “The OSG represents the Republic, not the government/administration.”

He added that there are “sovereignty issues” involved in the ICC case that must be addressed by the OSG and other relevant government agencies.

“All our options are under study, I’ll answer your questions when we have firmed up our position,” Guevarra told reporters.

Order to comment

The ICC issued the order to comment last July 14 and gave the Philippine government until September 8, 2022 to submit its observations to the proposal.

On the other hand, the ICC directed Khan to submit by September 22, 2022 any response to the observations that the Philippine government is tasked to provide.

Khan proposed the reopening of the investigation on Duterte’s war on drugs last June 24.

On November 20, 2021, the ICC deferred its probe on the thousands of deaths that occurred during the bloody operations by authorities, upon the request of the Philippine government, which cited the ongoing  probe by DOJ and other agencies   into the drug-related killings.

It specifically cited the ongoing review by the DOJ  of 52 drug-related operations between 2016 and 2021 that resulted in deaths.

The DOJ’s review of the cases commenced in November  2021 or eight  months ago, as directed by Duterte, who committed this during his speech before the United States General Assembly (UNGA)  in September 2021.

Duterte told the UNGA that he had instructed the DOJ and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to review the conduct of the government’s campaign against illegal drugs and to make accountable those who acted beyond what the law requires.

However, ICC’s Khan subsequently sought the reopening of the probe, as he expressed doubts on the sincerity of Philippine government agencies to investigate and prosecute those involved in the killings.

He said the proceedings being undertaken by these agencies “fail to sufficiently mirror the authorized ICC investigation, as required by Articles 17 and 18 of the Rome Statute.”

Khan said the Philippines has failed to show that it is investigating “any conduct occurring in Davao from 2011 to 2016, any crimes other than murder, any killings outside official police operations, any responsibility of mid- or high-level perpetrators, or any systematic conduct or State policy.”

He also noted the “relatively small” number of cases cited by the Philippine government that falls under the parameters of the ICC investigation.

Guevarra earlier said Khan should have waited for the DOJ’s probe to produce more results before seeking the ICC’s reopening of its investigation.

He noted that the investigation and prosecution of such cases would take longer than months.

Prior to his appointment as solicitor-general, Guevarra, as justice secretary, led the  DOJ’s probe on drug operations where deaths occurred.

The justice department earlier said at least 150 policemen are under investigation for their involvement in  52 anti-illegal drug operations where deaths occurred.

Guevarra earlier said 250 more cases of anti-illegal drug operations that resulted in deaths would be forwarded to the National Bureau of Investigation for investigation and case build-up.