By Benjamin Pulta

Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra (File photo) 

MANILA – State lawyers on Tuesday reiterated that the government is not obligated to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) despite calls to the contrary by some lawmakers.

In a message to the media, Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra explained that the resolutions by lawmakers encouraging the government to cooperate with the ICC are mere expressions of sentiments.

“Non-cooperation with the ICC prosecutor and rejoining the ICC are two different things. The government has no legal duty to cooperate with the ICC prosecutor in his investigation of the drug war because the ICC can no longer exercise its jurisdiction after the effectivity of the Philippines’ withdrawal from the ICC in 2019,” Guevarra said.

He pointed out that the ICC prosecutor was authorized to investigate only in 2021.

“The House (of Representatives) resolutions encouraging the government to cooperate, if adopted, are a non-binding expression of their sentiment only. On the other hand, rejoining the ICC is a policy decision that will involve both the executive and legislative departments. This matter needs a very serious study because many factors and competing interests need to be considered,” he added.

The SolGen’s position was echoed by Department of Justice (DOJ) spokesperson Mico Clavano following statements allegedly made by Vice President Sara Duterte for the DOJ to take a stand on the resumption of ICC’s investigation.

Duterte’s father, former president Rodrigo Duterte, is the target of a supposed ICC investigation.

Clavano said the administration has not gone back on its previous stance rejecting participation in the probe.

Hindi naman po kailangan mag-request dahil hindi naman po nagbago ang stance ng DOJ. Kagaya siguro ng sinabi ni Secretary [Jesus Crispin] Remulla, pinag-aaralan lang po dahil meron nagsalita galing Kongreso at trabaho naman po namin na makinig sa co-equal branch of government. Kaya po namin pag-aaralan dahil meron po nagsabi na siguro tingnan na lang muna natin ulit (There is no need for such request because the DOJ has not changed its stance. Like what Secretary Remulla has said, it is only because some lawmakers in Congress have spoken and it is our job to listen to this co-equal branch of government. That is why we are studying it),” he told reporters.

Clavano said the DOJ’s stand remains that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the Philippines, “although of course, we will be open if we see a change in the stated policy direction of the administration.”

Siyempre, kailangan natin maging deliberate, kailangan natin pag-aralan ng mabuti para ‘yung mga decision natin hindi makakaapekto sa ating state (We need to be deliberate and study so our decisions will not affect the interests of the state),” he added. (PNA)