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FIRING LINE: Strategic pivot to ICC

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

Never mind his sister’s sentimental musings of friendship with the Dutertes. President Bongbong Marcos certainly has his eyes open as his very government signals a potential shift in its stance on the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into his predecessor’s bloody and deadly war on drugs. 

Senator Imee Marcos can cry a river for the old man Duterte, sing him praises, and build a wall of kind words to shield him. But all that is as good as whispers in the wind.

The Department of Justice, for example, might sound tough in saying that allowing the ICC to have its way in the country undermines our sovereignty. But Justice Secretary Boying Remulla has yet to really take that tone and shut the door. Instead, he’s opting to consult with Malacanang about whether the country should rejoin the ICC.

And if the President is indeed considering that option, it absolutely contrasts former president Rody Duterte’s withdrawal from the ICC in 2018. With Duterte out of power for a good 17 months, politicians are making calculated moves to align with popular opinion.

Resolutions have already been filed in Congress by Manila Rep. Bienvenido M. Abante Jr., Party-List Rep. France L. Castro, and Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman to urge cooperation with the ICC probe into human rights abuses during Duterte’s anti-illegal drugs campaign.

What the President does next will be a strategic step for his administration, perhaps away from the picture-perfect combination voters saw when he campaigned to victory hand-in-hand with Duterte’s daughter. But Marcos will now have to decide how his government aligns with changing political dynamics and alliances. It is his defining moment as President, and he will most likely make decisions based on politics, not friendship.

Tables turned

Leila de Lima, the former senator imprisoned on what she claims were politically motivated drug charges, anticipates payback as the Court of Appeals reverses the Ombudsman’s dismissal and orders a full investigation of ex-DOJ secretaries Vitaliano Aguirre and Menardo Guevarra.

Indeed, the pendulum swings and now signals a reckoning for those who allegedly manipulated the justice system to torment De Lima based on the whim and liking of the Chief Executive who appointed them then. No one can blame De Lima now if she asserts her right to justice after six years in detention for drug charges that are just being proven to be nonsense by the courts.

“The wheels are now continuing to turn,” she said over the weekend in response to the recent CA decision. The ruling critiques the Ombudsman’s refusal to investigate administrative charges, deeming it a violation of due process.

For De Lima, it’s been a long wait to target Aguirre and Guevarra for allegedly violating witness protection laws by admitting convicts with moral turpitude as witnesses against her. This legal triumph, coupled with recent bail orders and dismissed cases, positions De Lima for a strong comeback.

In these times when President Marcos faces a strategic crossroads, the dynamics of political alliances intersect with the pursuit of justice. Meanwhile, the tables have turned for De Lima, marking a symbolic moment of legal retribution against those accused of manipulating the justice system.

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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email or tweet @Side_View via X app (formerly Twitter). Read current and past issues of this column at

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