Tolentino to stand as Dela Rosa’s legal counsel in ICC probe
UPDATED MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Francis Tolentino will stand as legal counsel for fellow lawmaker Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa in the probe of the International Criminal Court (ICC) into the bloody war on drugs during the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte and Dela Rosa, who was the former’s first national police chief, are accused of crimes against humanity for the supposed state-sponsored extrajudicial killings in relation to the drug war.
“I accept the proposal of Sen. Dela Rosa to lawyer for him. I am now speaking as the counsel for Sen. Dela Rosa,” Tolentino, chairperson of the Senate panel on justice and human rights, said in an online news conference on Wednesday.
Tolentino said he has yet to speak to Duterte about possibly representing the latter before the international tribunal.
“If he wants, I’m just having my papers fixed now for my proper accreditation if that will come to that point,” he said partly in Filipino.
The ICC appeals chamber on Monday junked the plea of the Philippine government to suspend the investigation into Duterte’s violent war on drugs while it is also appealing the ruling authorizing the resumption of the probe.
Tolentino then clarified that he will also serve as Dela Rosa’s legal counsel beyond the ICC.
“My role would be to ensure the protection of Sen. Dela Rosa, not just within the confines of the ICC. Because we’re claiming that they do not have jurisdiction, but even locally,” he said.
Asked about his legal advice for Dela Rosa at this time, Tolentino said: “Stay put and if there is an administrative or quasi-judicial body seeking documents or asking for his testimony, we will submit. It’s in the Philippines. The investigation should be done here. Not in the Netherlands.”
The 1987 Constitution states that “no senator or member of the House of Representatives may personally appear as counsel before any court of justice or before the Electoral Tribunals, or quasi-judicial and other administrative bodies.”
The Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees further says that incumbent public officials and employees shall not “engage in private practice of their profession unless authorized by the Constitution or law, provided, that such practice will not conflict or tend to conflict with their official functions.”
But Tolentino said he “can get an exemption from the Senate President” to clear him to represent Dela Rosa.
The ICC rules also state that “experienced lawyers who wish to represent defendants or victims as counsel before the Court must be admitted to the List of Counsel.”
In the Philippines, only Duterte’s former spokesman Harry Roque is included in the international tribunal’s list of counsel.
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