This is false bravado. The ICC prosecutor is authorized under the Rome Statute to collect evidence elsewhere.
Up until a couple of months ago President Rodrigo Duterte’s political stock appeared impregnable. He was able to sustain the highest trust ratings among Philippine presidents of recent history and appeared stinted to break the chain of leaders who become lame-ducks close to the end of their terms.
The President’s continued popularity is the most plausible reason why his daughter Sara is leading the pack of presidentiables in recent surveys. He is anybody’s strongest endorser.
Heavyweights like Mar Roxas and Bam Aquino got bulldozed at the polls by Bong Go and Bato dela Rosa during the 2019 senatorial polls. Ocho Derecho was skinned by the President.
The massacre was Duterte wagging his patented dirty finger at those who nurse conventional wisdom that name-recall and good political stock are enough to tide the day.
Was this the reason why people under his direct executive command got reckless with shenanigans that would make Janet Napoles weep at the unfairness of it all? The false belief, apparently, that no senator would dare cross a tested king and kingmaker who can do no wrong in the eyes of most Filipinos?
The International Criminal Court has formally authorized an investigation into the “situation” of the Philippines. It mentioned several indications that the thousands of killings in the war on drugs were State-sponsored.
Among those telltale signs is that the killings stopped or got substantially reduced when the government Oplan was suspended because of public backlash.
We are reminded of at least two occasions when the police had to suspend their operations. One was Korean businessman Jee Ick-Joowho was kidnapped by two policemen in October 2016. He was garroted right inside Camp Crame in Quezon City.
The other one was teenager Kian de los Santos who was killed in the thick of the “one-time big-time” operations of the Philippine National Police in August 2017.
We also recall the President preening over the number of deaths in the aftermath of the “one-time big-time” operations of the PNP. Over 30 people were killed in one night. He uttered words to the effect that such efficiency would be a balm to what ails this nation.
When that Oplan was scuttled after the utter heartlessness in Kian’s killing was laid bare, Duterte turned defensive and railed against so-called narco-politicos.
One of Duterte’s favorites was Iloilo City mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog who had luckily flown the coop and escaped the wild, wild West. He did not say who was feeding him unverified information that Mabilog was a drug coddler.
Does popularity result in impunity?
A suspected drug lord and his son were killed in police operations in Iloilo City two weeks after the explosive Kian killing, amid sentiment that the drug war was targeting the poor and the defenseless,
Richard Prevendido and his son Jayson were gunned down after they allegedly opened fire at police operatives who were supposedly serving them arrest and search warrants.
Of course, this dovetails with the usual narrative of drug suspects resisting arrest through violent means, or “nanlaban.”Again, violence was used to stem the tide of public opinion.
The Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo has claimed that the government will not allow entry to any member of the ICC to collect information and evidence in the Philippines.
This is false bravado. The ICC prosecutor is authorized under the Rome Statute to collect evidence elsewhere. He can request the presence of persons under investigation and enter into agreements to ensure cooperation of other states and intergovernmental organizations.
The prosecutor can also receive written or oral testimony at the seat of the ICC.
The writing is on the wall. Sen. Manny Pacquiao might be correct in his instincts. With the volley of corruption charges against those in power and forthcoming summonses from the ICC we might be seeing the rapid loosening of the Davao grip./WDJ