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Arroyo comes to Duterte’s defense in face of ICC drug war probe


FORMER Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has urged the House of Representatives to help defend ex-President Rodrigo R. Duterte as he gets probed by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his deadly war on drugs.

The Pampanga representative and more than a dozen congressmen filed a resolution seeking the “unequivocal defense” of Mr. Duterte.

His presidency “ushered remarkable accomplishments brought about by his relentless campaign against illegal drugs, insurgency, separatism and terrorism, corruption in government and criminality, thus making the life of every Filipino better, comfortable and peaceful,” according to a copy of the resolution.

Last month, the ICC pre-trial chamber reopened its investigation on the killings and ‘crimes against humanity’ under Mr. Duterte’s anti-illegal drug campaign.

The Hague-based tribunal said it was not satisfied with Philippine efforts to probe the killings.

Ms. Arroyo, whose presidency was rocked by allegations of election cheating in 2005, said the Philippines has a “functioning and independent judicial system.”

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla earlier said an ICC probe would be an insult to the country’s justice system.

The Philippine government estimates that 6,117 suspected drug dealers were killed in police operations, but human rights groups have said as many as 30,000 people died.

Jean S. Encinas Franco, who teaches political science at the University of the Philippines (UP), said the House filing was not surprising since Ms. Arroyo and Mr. Duterte have been long-time allies. 

“Now that Duterte’s just a private citizen and Gloria is still a member of the House of Representatives, and with close ties to the present administration, then it’s expected that she will be helping Duterte,” she said.

Ephraim B. Cortez, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, said House support for Mr. Duterte would “leave a foul taste in the mouth, because they are quick to  defend a former president facing charges at the ICC, and ignoring the families of drug war victims,” he said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

He added that this could “further tarnish the Philippines’ human rights record” and “expose its disregard for the protection and defense of human rights.”

Maria Ela L. Atienza, a UP political science professor, said the resolution gives the impression that the House approved of Mr. Duterte’s drug campaign and how it was conducted.

Ms. Arroyo said justice should be ensured because “she too was once a victim of unfair investigation and prosecution.”

Her successor, the late President Benigno S.C. Aquino, led an anti-corruption drive that led to her being put under hospital arrest while under trial for corruption.

The Supreme Court in 2016 acquitted her of charges that she misused P365 million in state charity funds.

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