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Marcos: De Lima’s acquittal shows Philippine justice system is working

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PHILIPPINE STAR/MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

PHILIPPINE President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. on Thursday said he won’t change his mind about not cooperating with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in its investigation of his predecessor’s deadly drug war.

Former Senator Leila M. de Lima’s acquittal in her last drug trafficking case showed that the country’s justice system is working, he told reporters on Thursday.

“Maybe this is something we should show the ICC,” he said. “The Judiciary is working properly. Our investigative services are working properly, and former Senator de Lima has been acquitted.”

“We still stay with our position that the ICC has no jurisdiction in the Philippines because we have a working police force, we have a working Judiciary and do not require any assistance in that regard,” he added.

Mr. Marcos earlier ruled out working with the ICC, saying its probe violates Philippine sovereignty given the country’s fully functional justice system.

The Philippines under ex-President Rodrigo R. Duterte withdrew from the ICC in 2019 amid criticisms that his government systemically murdered drug suspects in police raids. It took effect a year later.

A Muntinlupa court on Monday acquitted the former lawmaker, who had been in jail for nearly seven years, in her third and last drug trafficking case that she said was fabricated to muzzle her investigation of then-President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s war on drugs.

The US State Department has called on the Marcos government to step up its efforts to resolve politically motivated lawsuits against civic leaders after Ms. De Lima’s acquittal.

Muntinlupa Presiding Judge Gener M. Gito said prosecutors had failed to prove that Ms. De Lima was involved in the illegal drug trade. The same court granted her bail plea in November.

She was accused of promoting the illegal drug trade inside the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa during her time as Justice secretary.

Convicts allegedly bribed her with P70 million, which she allegedly used to fund her senatorial campaign.

Ms. De Lima incurred Mr. Duterte’s ire when, as chairwoman of the Commission on Human Rights, she started a probe in 2009 into extrajudicial killings by the so-called Davao Death Squad in the tough-talking leader’s hometown, where he was the long-time mayor. Mr. Duterte later vowed to “destroy” her.

Amnesty International has said the government had deprived the ex-senator of her right to a fair trial through her arbitrary detention.

Political experts have said her detention showed how the government had abused the justice system.

At a media forum on Thursday, Senator Ronald M. Dela Rosa, who enforced the anti-illegal drug drive as Mr. Duterte’s police chief, said there is no need to bring drug war complaints before the ICC.

He noted that if the country’s justice system was flawed, cops who committed wrongdoing shouldn’t have been charged, convicted or jailed. “So there were rights violations. That’s why we need to investigate each case individually,” he said in Filipino.

The government estimates that at least 6,117 suspected drug dealers were killed in police operations. Human rights groups say as many as 30,000 suspects died. — John Victor D. Ordoñez

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