Roque downplays ICC report findings, says public support of Duterte still strong

Published August 30, 2021, 6:34 PM

by Roy Mabasa

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque has dismissed as more of “victims’ opinion” the Public Redacted Registry Report of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which indicated that victims “overwhelmingly support” a probe into the alleged crimes committed under President Duterte’s bloody war on illegal drugs.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque (OPS / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

“We consider the Public Redacted Registry Report on Victims’ Representation submitted to the ICC as more of the opinion of victims wanting the ICC probe rather than erosion of support of the Filipino people,” Roque told reporters in a message on Monday, Aug. 30.

Roque, who was a former human rights lawyer before joining the current administration, said Duterte, whose anti-drug campaign the ICC is questioning, is a “democratically-elected President who has the backing of the majority of the Filipino people.”

He cited recent surveys that showed 88 percent of Filipinos backed the President’s controversial campaign against illegal drugs.

“It is just unfortunate that the Office of the Prosecutor (ICC) has been used by his (Duterte) ardent critics and detractors as a political tool,” the Palace spokesman said.

Roque also said the Philippines is under no obligation to cooperate with the United Nations (UN)-backed international court as it has already withdrawn its membership from the Rome Statute in March 2019.

“The Philippines’ withdrawal from the Rome Statute gives us no obligation to cooperate with the ICC, including the opening of its preliminary examination,” he said.

According to Roque, the alleged victims of Duterte’s drug war can seek justice under Philippine laws.

“This however does not mean that the alleged victims cannot seek redress. The full gamut of the legal remedies under our domestic laws is and always will be available to them,” the Palace official said.

Roque stressed that the prosecution in the ICC pre-trial chamber, such as the one held in the case involving the situation in Afghanistan, has a responsibility to evaluate the prospective feasibility of a probe, considering and balancing the realistic expectations for cooperation by the most relevant national authorities in the collection of evidence and in the surrender of potential suspects, on the one side; and the concrete interests of justice, including the interest of the victims, on the other.

It was earlier reported that 94 percent of the victims consulted by the international court are favoring the ICC prosecutor to proceed with the investigation on the crimes committed between November 1, 2011 and March 17, 2019.

Duterte served as mayor of Davao City prior to becoming president in 2016.