By Kaela Patricia Gabriel

PHOTO: Agence France-Presse

President Rodrigo Duterte will allow the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the government’s war on drugs “if they could” but will assert the country's "sovereignty and independence from foreign interference," Palace said Wednesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte remains unbothered by the ICC and clarified the president would not tolerate abuses in war on drugs campaign, calling the deaths associated with it "collateral damage."

“That’s the proper perspective of the President. Let them [ICC] do what they want if they could but meanwhile, he will assert Philippine sovereignty and independence from foreign interference,” Roque said in an interview with ANC.

Roque also stated they are confident that the ICC’s probe "will not prosper" without the government allowing it since the state’s cooperation is a prerequisite for an investigation to proceed.

"We're confident it will not prosper beyond this stage, because, in the first place, you need the cooperation of the state for a case buildup. But right now, what they have is hearsay information,” Roque said.

The Presidential Spokesperson claimed ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s probe is solely based on media reports instead of forensic evidence despite witness affidavits sent to the court by the National Union of People's Lawyers and other rights groups.

On the other hand, Bishop Broderick Pabillo challenged the government to cooperate with ICC’s probe if they did not do anything incriminating during the war on drugs campaign.

"Kung wala naman talagang kasalanan, the investigation will show. Kung may kasalanan, the investigation will show. Ang gusto lang sana nating maiwasan yung culture of impunity na magagawa nila ang gusto nilang gawin nang hindi mananagot," Pabillo said.

In 2018, the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor intended to begin their preliminary examinations of the country's situation since the beginning of Duterte's term, particularly the war on drugs campaign.

Duterte then had withdrawn the ratification of the Rome Statute for the reason that it never took effect in the country as it was never published under the Official Gazette.

Report source: ABS-CBN News Center