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President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos said that his administration would no longer engage with the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) probe into the alleged crime against humanity committed by the Duterte administration during its 6-year war on drugs.

Bongbong was forced to state his position openly because the ICC rejected the government’s appeal to stop the ICC from investigating the more than 6,000 victims acknowledged by the government to have been killed. Human rights organizations estimate that the number of Filipinos killed by the police is probably between 25,000- 30,000, which is way more than the 6,000 admitted by the police.

The numbers do not really matter for now. What matters to me is Bongbong’s refusal to cooperate with the ICC.

True, Bongbong was not the president during the bloody war on drugs of the Duterte administration. But, as president, he could have easily set a higher standard for himself and before the world by allowing the ICC to continue its investigation. That would send a strong message that in the Philippines human rights are respected and guaranteed.

With such a gesture, Bongbong will show by example how to build a culture of accountability in government, which is desperately needed today. He will be the envy of many and will have earned the accolades of the international community.

Unfortunately, Bongbong appears to have forgotten that there is such a thing called Rome Statute that the Philippines is committed to. Why do I say this? Because Bongbong was one of the senators who ratified the Rome Statute on August 30, 2011, making the Philippines an official member of the ICC.

Bongbong might not be as intelligent as his father, but he is not a moron. He is not stupid. He knew well enough, I suppose, what the Rome Stature was all about for him to have signed it, together with current senators Juan Miguel Zubiri, Francis Escudero, Jinggoy Estrada, Loren Legarda whose deafening silence vis-a-vis the ICC deserves another article.

Bongbong knew then and now as president, that even if the Philippines had already withdrawn from the Rome Statute on March 17, 2019, the ICC retains jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed before the withdrawal date of March 17, 2019.

Even the Supreme Court ruled in 2021 that the ICC “retains jurisdiction over any and all acts committed by government actors until March 17, 2019” - overlapping the first three years of Duterte’s presidency and his drug war.

With the 31 million Filipinos who voted for him, Bongbong has the political capital to do what is good for the country. And, with the 2021 Supreme Court decision as his shield, he has immense power and the moral authority to contradict his legal advisers and allow the ICC to probe Duterte’s egregious war on drugs.

Of course, there are political risks involved. Allowing ICC to come to the Philippines and investigate the instigators and implementors of the war on drugs can lead to political retribution. The ardent supporters of Duterte, who remains popular among various sectors, can make Bongbong’s life in politics miserable. But it is a given that every politician who wants to do good should be prepared to face. As the saying goes, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

The question then is how does Bongbong want to be remembered? Does he want to be remembered as a true unifier of a divided nation or does he want to be remembered as a gutless head of state, a typical politician who only cares about his political survival and not about what is good for the country?

Upon learning that the government’s appeal was denied, Bongbong forcefully declared, “We ended up in the same position that we started with, and that is we cannot cooperate with the ICC, considering the very serious question about their jurisdiction, and about what we consider to be interference and practically attacks on the sovereignty of the republic.”

From all indications, it appears that when it comes to the government’s working relation with ICC, Bongbong has decided to remain obstinate and even ignored the Supreme court’s ruling that the ICC has jurisdiction over acts committed by the government until the withdrawal date.

Bongbong could have done something good that many Filipinos likely wanted him to do, that is, to give justice to those who have less in law. But he did not.



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