By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang said that President Duterte decided to withdraw the Philippines from the International Criminal Court (ICC) as he is now convinced that there is a conspiracy to convict him in a court of public opinion.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the statement a day after it was revealed that the President instructed Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to issue a notice of the country’s withdrawal of its ratification of the Rome Statute to the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General due to “outrageous attacks” on his person.
Roque, during the Thursday Palace press briefing, noted that the President was willing to face the ICC but when UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Prince of Jordan Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said that Duterte needs a psychiatric check, the President was convinced that there was a conspiracy going on.
“With that statement, the President is convinced that there must be some kind of a conspiracy on the part of pressure groups and UN officials to shame him because prior to that statement of the Prince of Jordan, he says he has nothing to hide,” Roque said.
Last December, Malacañang appealed to the ICC to not allow the Court be used by Duterte’s critics for their own political advances as it may cause the Philippines to reassess its membership if pushed.
Not just the Prince
The Palace official explained that it was not just the remarks of the Prince of Jordan that triggered Duterte to change his mind about the ICC. He said that the remarks of UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Agnes Callamard, and the preliminary examination of ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda also contributed to the President’s decision.
“Let me be clear, it’s not just the Prince, it’s also the UN and Agnes Callamard. As far as the President is concerned, there’s like a concerted effort on the part of lobby groups to influence UN officials to indict and convict the President in a court of public opinion,” Roque said.
“That’s what it is. It’s a concerted effort to convict him in a court of public opinion and he will not have anything to do with that,” he added.
However, Roque said that Bensouda is really the one to be blamed for the Philippines’ withdrawal from the ICC, saying that the announcement of a preliminary examination was a wrong political move that makes the Court become a dustbin of history.
“Wrong political move, Madam Prosecutor. I am addressing you, wherever you are. You just gave countries confirmation on why they should not become a member of the ICC because you have shown because you have shown that you can exercise your power without accountability. You are to blame if the ICC becomes a dustbin of history,” he said.
According to the Palace official, Bensouda should have weighed the outcome of her decision to proceed with a preliminary examination more carefully as this may result in an avalanche of countries leaving the ICC.
“Well, that’s [preliminary examination announcement] a fatal mistake. She should have weighed the policy implication of the Philippines withdrawing from the ICC from appeasing lobby groups. I put the blame squarely on the Prosecutor,” Roque said.
He said that Bensouda should have dismissed the case filed by Duterte’s critics as it was obvious that it was driven by politics.
“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that a case is politicized when a politician has filed it. It should have been thrown to the wastebasket instantly,” Roque said.
In April last year, lawyer Jude Sabio filed a complaint against Duterte before the ICC for alleged “mass murder,” citing the murder of at least 1,400 people by the alleged Davao Death Squad (DDS) when Duterte was still mayor of Davao City.
Roque said that international lobby groups have always lobbied themselves with opposition groups including human rights organizations. However, he explained that the rich have the right to support and fund them.
“I’m not begrudging it, karapatan naman ng mga mayayaman na sumuporta sa mga (it is the right of the rich people to support) lobby groups. But alam natin (we know), it’s the same lobby groups who have successfully lobbied the Office of the Prosecutor to proceed also, at least with the preliminary examination,” he said.
Roque specified the Human Rights Watch (and) Amnesty International as some lobby groups and the Open Society Institute (OSI) which funds them.
“It’s the OSI group. ‘Yan naman yung mga nagpopondo talaga ng (They really are the ones funding) human rights groups. And they have a very strong lobby in the UN Human Rights bodies including the ICC,” he said.
“‘Yang mga (The) local political parties naman sumasakay lang diyan. But alam naman natin na yung pamahalaan ni Presidente [Benigno] Aquino [III], talagang sumapi po sa (are only joining the hype but we know that the government of President Aquino really joined the) Open Governance Initiative ng (of the) Open Society Institute.
The OSI, now known as the Open Society Foundations, is an international grant-making network founded by business magnate George Soros in 1993.