Duterte ally questions credibility of ICC prosecutor, cites 'terrorist' tag

Administration ally Senator Francis Tolentino on Thursday, June 17, hit the credibility of International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda after the latter sought a formal investigation into the alleged murders committed under President Duterte's "war on drugs".

Senator Francis Tolentino (Senate of the Philippines)

“I still have some doubts as to the official credibility of former prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's ICC recommendations announced hours before she retired from ICC," Tolentino, a partymate of Duterte, said in a statement.

"We should note that previously Madame Bensouda was included in the SDN (specifically designated national) list of the US government under President Trump," he added.

Tolentino referred to the executive order issued by former US President Donald Trump, which identified Bensouda and another senior prosecution official as SDN, grouping them alongside terrorists and narcotics traffickers.

The designation came amid the ICC's investigation into the US' alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in relation to the Afghanistan and Palestinian conflicts.

The US had also cancelled Bensouda's visa and blocked the ICC officials from transacting with any American entities and citizens.

Last April 2, however, President Joe Biden lifted the sanctions imposed by Trump, even as the country "continues to disagree strongly with the ICC's actions".

Despite this, Tolentino insisted: "Besouda as a US-designated 'terrorist' was considered as a threat to US national security and foreign and economic policies".

"How can she during her tenure objectively conduct an investigation when some members of the international community considered her as persona non grata for terrorist links?" he said.

Aside from this, Tolentino also questioned if Bensouda, as a retired prosecutor, "can still recommend the prosecution of a head of state of a non Treaty of Rome signatory."

The Philippines withdrew from the ICC in 2019 after the court launched a preliminary examination into Duterte's campaign against illegal drugs, which killed thousands of civilians suspected as drug pusher or users.

Bensouda earlier said that the ICC could still investigate the alleged crimes committed while the Philippines was a member.

Duterte refuses to cooperate with any investigation by the ICC.