By Marivir R. Montebon
New York – Senate President Vicente Sotto III yesterday said that the International Criminal Court (ICC) can proceed with its investigation into the widely reported extrajudicial killings as a result of the Duterte administration’s anti-drug campaign.
“They don’t need our permission. No one can stop them from doing it,” he said in the virtual forum Kapihan sa New York on September 25, 2021. Sotto was special guest of the monthly forum sponsored by Orientours, Philippine Airlines, the Department of Tourism, and the FilAm Press Club of New York. At the this widely-participated forum themed ‘Tourism as an Economic Engine’, he received questions ranging from tourism to politics.
Sotto explained that the Senate has the legal authority to allow or disallow an inquiry based on probable violations of international treaties. He alluded that Duterte’s rescinding (of the ICC’s Rome Statute) was inappropriate because international accords “is a Senate function, not executive.”
He added that he and three other senators wrote to the Supreme Court seeking its wisdom on the matter. “But as to the investigation, yes the ICC can do it. They can gather documents and affidavits,” he said.
Joebert Opulencia, president of New York-based Orientours, asked Sotto if the current protocols in the Philippines could be amended to become practical and safe. “The cost for a 10-day quarantine in a designated hotel would reach $1200. Instead of going home, Filipinos would rather decided to go to the Bahamas or the Caribbean,” he said.
Don Tagala, president of the FilAm Press Club of New York, suggested a simpler and safer protocol of checking vaccine card and getting tested and doing away with quarantine once proven negative (of viruses). “I recently went on a trip abroad and I was asked to present my vaccine card and was tested negative. Why cannot the Philippines implement something as straight forward as that?”
Sotto expressed that he does not agree with the protocols instituted by the Inter-agency Task Force and the health department in response to the pandemic. He assured participants that their sentiments would be brought up expeditiously to the proper agencies as he could.
Currently, the Philippine Senate Blue Ribbon committee is investigating into lost monies of the health department which were intended for emergency assistance during the covid19 pandemic.
Sotto has signified his intention to run for vice president in the 2022 elections, in tandem with Sen. Panfilo Lacson who seeks the presidential post.
When asked about his dreams for the Philippines, Sotto said that he will institutionalize BRAVE (Budget reform advocacy for village empowerment) which will localize the distribution of funds and resources to the villages in the Philippines. According to Sotto, local government is replete of resources for its development. “We need to financially empower the localities. We are still very much a top-down system. That has to be addressed,” Sotto said.
Sotto comes from a lineage of political family in Cebu. His uncle Sen. Felimon Sotto was among the pioneering statesmen in the 1917 Constitution and his uncle Sen. Vicente Sotto pushed for women’s suffrage at the turn of the 20th century.#