May 2017

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

U.S. President Donald Trump interacts with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago resort. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

U.S. President Donald Trump interacts with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago resort.
REUTERS/Carlos Barria

When President Donald Trump met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at his luxurious resort Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida last April 6, he was hoping that Xi would accept his invitation to stay at the posh resort. Well, Xi politely declined and instead stayed at a nearby hotel. But other than that, their summit was deemed a “success.” Trump got something of geopolitical value that he thought would solve his North Korea dilemma. And Xi got something of great economic value that he coveted so much. But how do you measure who got more? It’s like comparing apples and oranges, right?

After the recent Trump-Xi summit at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, Trump’s hard-line stance against China melted like a marshmallow over a fire. After two days of negotiations, Trump declared that China was not a “currency manipulator” and decided to maintain the status quo on trade issues. That’s a 180-degree turnaround from his position during the presidential campaign.

When Xi went back home, he ordered shipments of coal from North Korea to be turned back. Trump was ebullient when he got the news. He said that China took a “big step” in easing tensions between the two countries. He described his relationship with Xi as one with “good chemistry” and praised Xi for banning North Korean coal.

South Korea’s new president Moon Jae-in and North Korean “supreme leader” Kim Jong-un.

South Korea’s new president Moon Jae-in and North Korean “supreme leader” Kim Jong-un.

But what has that to do with the North Korea “nuclear” problem? North Korea continues her nuclear program including developing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that could reach the U.S. Since the Trump-Xi summit, North Korea had attempted to launch ballistic missiles but failed when the missiles exploded in flight. The following day that South Korea elected Moon Jae-In as president, North Korea launched another missile test. It was successful. This led Moon to comment that war with North Korea was a “high possibility.”

“Nuclear card”

 Meanwhile, the situation in the South China Sea (SCS) has drastically changed: China put militarization of the region in high gear. In an attempt to please – or appease – China, Trump isn’t doing anything. He even turned down three requests from the Pacific Fleet to conduct freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) with 12 miles of China’s militarized islands in the Spratlys. And in an act of arrogance, China’s ambassador to the U.S. demanded that Trump remove the Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris Jr., who has been a strong proponent of FONOP. But what reportedly irked China was when Harris called China “aggressive,” saying the country does not “seem to respect the international agreements they’ve signed.” He was referring to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling that rejected China’s “nine-dash line” claim, which covered 80% of the SCS.

North Korea’s recent test launch of new ballistic missile Hwasong-12, which North Korea claims could reach the U.S.

North Korea’s recent test launch of new ballistic missile Hwasong-12, which North Korea claims could reach the U.S.

Evidently, Xi has put Trump on ice by playing the North Korea “nuclear card.” In other words, North Korea can now pursue her nuclear program, knowing that Trump wouldn’t do anything to stop her for as long as Xi pursues the “denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. But for North Korea watchers, denuclearization is not going to happen because China wouldn’t allow it to happen. If China wanted it to happen, she could have done it long time ago.

Another thing that’s not going to happen is Korean reunification. If reunification were going to happen, it would be under a democratic government and China wouldn’t allow that to happen.

Sea-of-JapanIndeed, a divided Korea — with North Korea possessing nuclear weapons — would serve as a security buffer between China and the U.S. forces stationed just south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ). But if the North Korean communist government collapses and the Korean Peninsula is reunified under the South Korea government, China will lose a strategic advantage over the western part of the Sea of Japan; thus, giving South Korea and Japan full control of the Sea of Japan. This would allow South Korea and Japan to block the Korea Strait – which connects the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea (ECS) – if hostility with China erupts.

Senkaku Islands.

Senkaku Islands.

It’s important to note that ECS is a hotly disputed region between China and Japan. The dispute is about ownership of the Senkaku Islands, a group of eight uninhabited isles and islets administered by Japan but contested by China. The sea’s strategic value is important to China because it connects to the SCS through the Taiwan Strait. To the east of the ECS is the Ryukyu archipelago, which is Japanese territory and to the west is China.

Arbitral tribunal

Nine-dash line.

Nine-dash line.

This brings us back to the SCS, which China claims by virtue of the “nine-dash line,” an arbitrary line that demarcates 80% of the South China Sea. But last July, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, Netherlands, issued a ruling in the Republic of the Philippines vs. People’s Republic of China that invalidates the “nine-dash line,” thus rendering China’s claim null and void. Beijing immediately rejected the PCA’s ruling.

Meanwhile, the newly elected President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, who was sworn into office just 12 days prior to the PCA tribunal award, had a different idea. Instead of pursuing the PCA’s award, he “temporarily” set it aside. During an event at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery), Duterte told Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jinhua that he does not want to go to war with China. Duterte then proposed that both the Philippines and China should just have a “soft landing everywhere.” After Duterte’s decision to set the tribunal award temporarily, China showered the Philippines with financial loans.

Rude awakening

Xi Jinping asked the PLA to be ready for a “regional war.” (File Photo: September 2014).

Xi Jinping asked the PLA to be ready for a “regional war.” (File Photo: September 2014).

Last May 15, Duterte met with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the “One Belt, One Road” summit in Beijing. Duterte told Xi, “We intend to drill oil there, if it’s yours, well, that’s your view, but my view is I can drill the oil, if there is some inside the bowels of the earth, because it is ours.” Xi responded, saying: “Well, if you force this, we’ll be forced to tell you the truth. We will go to war. We will fight you.”

It must have been a rude awakening for Duterte who had called Xi a “great president.” “China loves the Philippines and the Filipino people,” Duterte once said of his new friend and idol. Who would go to war with a friend? Clearly, things have changed, which begs the question: Why the direct and undiplomatic verbal assault on Duterte?

Xi knows that Duterte is weak – very weak – who by his own admission said “We cannot stop China from doing its thing. What do you want me to do? Declare war against China? I can, but we’ll lose all our military and policemen tomorrow!” If Xi uses Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” tactics, he knows that not only Duterte is weak; U.S. President Donald Trump is weak, too. And this raises the question: Would Trump honor the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) if Duterte invoked it? If no, then the Philippines would be helplessly at the mercy of China. And for as long as Xi keeps promising Trump that he’s working to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, Trump would remain neutral in the territorial disputes in the SCS.

When Xi warned Duterte, “We will go to war,” he knew exactly what Duterte would do: Withdraw. And if Duterte has the cojones to proceed drilling for oil, what would Xi do? Would he ask Trump to rein in Duterte just like when Trump asked Xi to rein in North Korea’s “supreme leader,” Kim Jong-un?

Indeed, any way it’s played out, Xi wins. He keeps North Korea nuclear-armed and the South China Sea in his possession. Which makes one wonder: Did Xi take Trump for a ride when they met at Mar-a-Lago?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

House-of-Cards.On the day of Donald J. Trump’s presidential inauguration, a trailer of Season 5 of the “House of Cards” Netflix series was shown. The trailer – which movie critics dubbed “creepy” – accompanied an upside down American flag, along with the tweet: “We make terror.” This line is a recall of last season’s final episode, when Underwood said, “We don’t submit to terror. We make the terror.”

I am not trying to promote the controversial series but I can’t help but notice the stark similarities between Trump and President Francis J. Underwood, the villainous character in the “House of Cards.” Sometimes it makes me wonder whether Trump is play-acting the role of the scheming and wily Underwood or Underwood is playing the real-life Trump.

It seems like the producers are going to take “House of Cards” to a level that would parallel the Trumpian presidency – with all the intrigues, lies, corruption, dirt, and warts that would make Underwood look like an altar boy. Yes, Season 5 will be all about Trump masquerading as Underwood. It would be Trump’s “House of Cards.”

Trump and Francis J. Underwood, plays U.S. president in the Netflix series “House of Cards.”

Trump and Francis J. Underwood, plays U.S. president in the Netflix series “House of Cards.”

For starters, the similarity of personality between Trump and Underwood makes people wonder if the presidency is no longer the domain of statesmen who are more concerned about policy rather than politics. Gone are the days when the nation’s elected leaders brought honor to the presidency. Trump, in the first 100 days of his presidency has dragged the office to a level of disrespect not seen before. Indeed, his first acts as president created chaos, which set the tone of how he is going to run the government for the next four years.

Assault on women

Women protesting Trump’s assault on women.

Women protesting Trump’s assault on women.

But if the first week of Trump’s presidency was a precursor of what it would be like in the next 200 weeks, then the American people should be prepared to ride a roller coaster endlessly. Indeed, Trump did not disappoint them when the day after his inauguration, hundreds of thousands of women gathered in Washington to express their disgust over Trump’s misogynistic behavior against women. In cities across the country, hundreds of thousands more converged on the streets in a show of solidarity.

Indeed, like Underwood, Trump’s attitude on women smacks of the demeaning – and brutal — treatment of women during the dark ages. And this is manifested in his attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare” and replace it with a healthcare system that is deemed as an assault on women’s health. With a majority of Americans expressing their opposition to ”Trumpcare,” Trump demonstrated his cold-blooded persona by ignoring the nation’s cry for compassion for the tens of millions who would be denied health coverage under Trumpcare, mostly women and the poor. Which makes one wonder: What is the underlying reason for Trump’s obsession to repeal Obamacare and replace it with his own creation?

Trumpkenstein.

Trumpkenstein.

His first executive order – on Inauguration Day – involved “minimizing the economic burden” of Obamacare. But if there is one thing that’s has emerged in his brazen experimentation of the people’s healthcare is that he has created a Frankenstein… or should I say, Trumpkenstein?

Assault on immigrants

Americans protesting Trump’s assault on immigrants.

Americans protesting Trump’s assault on immigrants.

While it’s bad enough that creating Trumpkenstein is awfully insensitive, Trump’s assault on immigrants – particularly those who are from certain Middle East countries – is repugnant and bespeaks of his anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment, which is driven by his “white nationalist” and anti-immigration xenophobia. The fact that he hired Steve Bannon – an avowed “white nationalist” with racist predisposition – to be his senior strategist and advisor, shows his disdain for people of color. Bannon, formerly the power behind the right-wing Breitbart News website, was the author of Trump’s controversial travel ban executive orders.

A week after his inauguration, Trump signed the executive order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” the so-called “Travel Ban.” However, immigration advocates call it more aptly, “Muslim Ban.” When the Federal Court stopped its implementation, Trump revised it to make it more legally “palatable.” But once again the Federal Court rejected it. It is now on appeal.

“Golden Visas” for sale

Jared Kushner’s father Charles Kushner and sister Nicole Meyer and a rendering on One Journal Square building they’re trying to fund with the sale of “Golden Visas” to wealthy Chinese investors.

Jared Kushner’s father Charles Kushner and sister Nicole Meyer and a rendering on One Journal Square building they’re trying to fund with the sale of “Golden Visas” to wealthy Chinese investors.

But while the travel ban restricts, if not prohibits, the issuance of visas to people from seven predominantly Muslim countries, a scandal erupted recently involving Trump’s family. It was revealed in the media that Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner’s family real estate business, “The Kushner Companies” – which holds around 20,000 apartments and 13 million square feet of commercial space across the U.S. — is involved in promoting a program that would allow wealthy foreigners in obtaining EB-5 Investor Visas, pejoratively called “Golden Visas.”

 A wide screen image showing a juxtaposition of Kushner1 project and President Trump displayed behind the podium where Nicole Meyer is making a project presentation.

A wide screen image showing a juxtaposition of Kushner1 project and President Trump displayed behind the podium where Nicole Meyer is making a project presentation.

Recently, Jared’s sister Nicole Kushner Meyer organized an event in Beijing to lure 300 wealthy Chinese to invest a total of $150 million in a 79-story apartment building in New Jersey called Kushner 1. Marketing materials distributed by Nicole cited the Kushner family’s “celebrity” status. Although the White House said that Jared has no involvement in the project, the family’s relationship with Trump was highlighted when a wide screen image showing a juxtaposition of the project and President Trump was displayed behind the podium. Like they say, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Yes, indeed.

Surmise it to say, if the name-dropping and showing of Trump’s image on the wall was intended to attract and influence people to invest, then one can say that such ploy is tantamount to “influence peddling,” which constitutes corruption. And by the way, during the marketing presentation, journalists were asked to leave the room.

Abuse of power

Trump meets Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (left) and Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak (right) in the Oval Office.

Trump meets Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (left) and Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak (right) in the Oval Office.

Trump promised to “drain the swamp” at the nation’s capital, but instead he raised the level of corruption, which has become a trademark of the Trump presidency. And then there is also the alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to hack the U.S. elections in favor of Trump, who won the presidency by garnering a majority of the Electoral College votes. However, he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by more than three million votes. While this quirk in the political system had happened a few times in the past due mainly to the way the Electoral College votes were distributed, Trump’s victory is being questioned by many people who blamed Russia’s alleged hacking had changed the calculus of the election results.

To date, the FBI investigation into possible Trump-Russia collusion has caused heads to fall. The first was acting Attorney General Sally Yates whom Trump fired after she warned the White House about former National Security Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn’s questionable contacts with some high Russian officials. Consequently, Trump fired Flynn. And then there was Congressman Jason Chaffetz, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who was torn between loyalty to the Republican Party and to his duty as “ethics watchdog.” Faced with a lose-lose dilemma, he resigned from his congressional seat.

Last May 9, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. According to Comey, he was fired because: (1) He never provided Trump with any assurance of personal loyalty, and (2) The FBI’s investigation into possible Trump team collusion with Russia in the 2016 election was accelerating. And to complicate things, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein reportedly threatened to quit after he was named as the “driving force” – which he denied — behind Trump’s decision to fire Comey.

There were two collateral damages to the Trump-Russia collusion investigation. The first was Attorney General Jeff Sessions who recused himself from the investigation. And the second was Congressman Devin Nunes who recused himself as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee after he announced that he was under investigation by the House Committee on Ethics because of public reports that he “may have made unauthorized disclosures of classified information.”

Angela Reid, former White House Usher fired by Trump without any explanation.

Angela Reid, former White House Usher fired by Trump without any explanation.

Unrelated to the Trump-Russia investigation, Trump fired another Federal employee: Angela Reid, former White House Usher. No reason was given for the firing of Reid who was a native of Jamaica. But what is glaringly apparent is that Reid is a woman, an immigrant, and a person of color! Did Trump fire her because she didn’t fit into the “white nationalist” crowd that he surrounds himself with in the White House?

With all these people being fired or resigning from the government, it makes one wonder if the “House of Cards” that Trump built on lies, intrigues, and deceit would survive public scrutiny.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

U.S. President Donald J. Trump.

U.S. President Donald J. Trump.

When Donald J. Trump was campaigning for the presidency, he projected a “tough guy” image by lambasting everyone that stood on his way or anyone who disagreed with him. His forays into foreign policy were gutsy and digressed from previous administrations’ diplomatic restraint in handling sensitive geopolitical issues. He shocked America’s NATO allies after he suggested that he might not honor the core tenet of the military alliance. He said the U.S. “would not necessarily defend new NATO members in the Baltics in the event of Russian attack if he were elected to the White House.”

On U.S.-China relations, Trump stirred a hornet’s nest when he challenged the “One-China Policy” and accused China of currency manipulation and unfair trade practices. He vowed to straighten things out in Asia.

His tough stance against China gave Japan and South Korea, America’s closest treaty allies, a sigh of relief. At last, they have an American president who would stand by them if attacked, unlike Trump’s predecessor, former president Barack Obama, whom he criticized for appeasing China and didn’t do anything to stop China’s construction of artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago.

After he assumed the presidency, he must have realized that foreign policy – which he had no experience before – is a complicated and complex game of statesmanship and adroit diplomatic leadership and maneuvering. It must have been a rude awakening for him to recognize that the practice of brinkmanship is quite different from the “art of the deal,” which he proudly claims to be his forte.

And to make things worse, he appointed his friend Rex Tillerson to the post of Secretary of State. With no experience in foreign policy – or government for that matter – poor Tillerson was thrown into the murky waters of geopolitics. And between him and Trump, how do you think they’d handle bullies like Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Kim Jong-un in the world stage? They are no ordinary world leaders; they are authoritarian dictators who love to threaten the U.S. with nuclear destruction. In particular, North Korea’s “Supreme Leader” Kim Jong-un seems to have rankled Trump who doesn’t appear to know how to handle the unpredictable Kim.

North Korea problem

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the DMZ.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the DMZ.

In an attempt to show Kim that he meant business, Trump sent Vice President Mike Pence to South Korea. In a show of grit, Pence — like Trump and Tillerson who don’t have any foreign policy experience — visited the demilitarized zone (DMZ) and stared across the “no man’s land” between North and South Korea, a day after North Korea’s failed missile launch. He talked tough, saying, “There was a period of strategic patience [in reference to Obama’s foreign policy] but the era of strategic patience is over.” “All options are on the table to achieve the objectives and ensure the stability of the people of this country,” he told reporters while propaganda music was continually played across from the North Korean side.

Meanwhile, Trump announced that an “armada” consisting of an aircraft carrier and several warships were on their way to the Korean Peninsula as a warning to North Korea. But a few days later, it was revealed in the media that the “armada” was moving in the opposite direction: to Australia to participate in a training exercise. In a quick attempt to undo his boo-boo, Trump ordered the “armada” to turn around and head to the Korean Peninsula.

USS Carl Vinson battle group.

USS Carl Vinson battle group.

But while the exercise of sending the blunt-talking vice president and deploying the “armada” to Korean waters may have achieved a “shock and awe” effect initially, it was blown away by Trump’s erroneous announcement.

What happened with the “armada” may have been deemed as miscommunication between Trump and his admirals. But from a geopolitical standpoint, Trump lost credibility as Commander-in-Chief, which effectively dealt a major blow to his ability to lead the nation’s military. For not getting his ducks in a row, Trump’s miscalculation doesn’t bode well with his relation with Asian countries, particularly the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Most of the ASEAN members are now kowtowing to Beijing because of their perception that Trump has abandoned Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” policy that has kept most of them in America’s orbit.

South China Sea concessions

Ivanka Trump and her Chinese trademark.

Ivanka Trump and her Chinese trademark.

After the recent Trump-Xi summit at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, Trump’s hard-line stance against China melted like a marshmallow over a fire. After two days of negotiations, Trump declared that China was not a “currency manipulator” and decided to maintain the status quo on trade issues.

For these concessions, Trump wanted Xi to help with the North Korea problem. In return, Xi responded with his signature half-smile but made no promises. But if there was one winner during the summit, it was Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump whose three trademarks for her jewelry and spa brand were approved by China the same day she and her husband Jared Kushner sat down for dinner with Xi and Trump at the Mar-a-Lago. It’s interesting to note that the Chinese trademarks requires that Ivanka’s products be manufactured in China using Chinese workers, which begs the question: What happened to Trump’s “America First” slogan? Or is it still the same old “Made in China” trade policies? Does it sound like another miscalculation? Indeed, the calculus doesn’t add up in America’s favor. Two winners emerged from the summit: Xi Jinping and Ivanka Trump.

TPP miscalculation

Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Trans-Pacific Partnership.

But the worst in Trump’s miscalculations in Asia was his decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a security and economic agreement between 12 countries led by the U.S. Seven of the member-countries hail from the Asia-Pacific: Australia, Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Vietnam, of which four are ASEAN members (Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam). Collectively, the TPP member-countries account for 40% of world trade. Ironically, it was the U.S. under the presidency of Obama who started the negotiations among the 12 countries. Unfortunately, while 11 countries ratified TPP in 2016, the U.S. Congress under Republican control failed – or refused – to ratify it in the last few months of Obama’s presidency. When Trump took over, withdrawal from TPP was one of his first acts – victims of his vindictive assault on policies and programs that Obama implemented.

Following Trump’s withdrawal last February, Japan (the largest remaining TPP member) said that the TPP was meaningless without the U.S. But recently, Japan’s position on TPP changed. She realized that China is moving fast to fill the vacuum left by the U.S. in the Pacific Rim region. And without the U.S. the other member-countries are playing the “China card” by negotiating their own trade agreements with China. Among them are Canada and Mexico, two of the three member-countries of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The third member-country is the U.S. But what made Canada and Mexico nervous was Trump’s threat to withdraw from NAFTA. But it was averted when the Canadian prime minister and Mexican president called Trump and talked him out of withdrawing. Needless to say, it would have been another humongous miscalculation had Trump decided to dismantle NAFTA.

Japan steps in

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

It finally dawned on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that if China joins the TPP, she would end up controlling the partnership, which would make Abe play second fiddle to China. And given the current geopolitical tremors that are occurring between Japan and China over the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, Japan is considering taking over the reins of the TPP.

Trump withdrawing from TPP.

Trump withdrawing from TPP.

With all of Trump’s geopolitical miscalculations, he could lose America’s preeminent role in world affairs. While Pax Americana has been showing cracks on it façade, the U.S. under Obama managed to contain China. But just four months into Trump’s presidency, China’s takeover of South China Sea is secured. With Trump making all these miscalculations, Pax Americana is on the throes of death. And taking its place would be a bipolar world order: Pax Russica in the West and Pax Sinica in the East.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

President Rodrigo Duterte and the International Criminal Court.

President Rodrigo Duterte and the International Criminal Court.

On November 17, 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte, before heading to Lima, Peru, told the media he just might order the Philippines’ withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC). He got the idea following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s withdrawal of Russia’s membership from ICC, who the day before had signed an order to formally withdraw Russia’s signature from the founding statute of the ICC. He claimed that ICC was “one-sided and inefficient” and that the ICC had failed to live up to ”hopes of the international community.”

Russia signed the Rome Statute in 2000 that set up the ICC, the world’s first permanent court that investigates genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Russia said she was unhappy with the ICC’s treatment of the case on Russia’s short war with Georgia in 2008, saying the ICC ignored the aggression of Georgia against civilians in South Ossetia – a pro-Russia separatist region of Georgia. But the truth of the matter is it was Russia who invaded Georgia in support of South Ossetia’s secession from Georgia. Many believed that Putin’s withdrawal was triggered by ICC’s published report that classified the Russian annexation of Crimea as an “occupation.”

Other countries that had served notice to withdraw from the ICC are Gambia, South Africa, and Burundi, who had charged that the ICC had been used “for the persecution of Africans and especially their leaders, while ignoring crimes committed by the West.”

To date, the ICC has opened investigations into 10 situations in: (1) the Democratic Republic of the Congo; (2) Uganda; (3) the Central African Republic I; (4) Darfur, Sudan; (5) Kenya; (6) Libya; the (7) Côte d’Ivoire; (8) Mali; (9) the Central African Republic II; and (10) Georgia. The ICC has publicly indicted 40 people. It has issued arrest warrants for 32 individuals and summonses to eight others. Seven persons are in detention. Proceedings against 23 are ongoing: 10 are at large as fugitives, four are under arrest but not in the Court’s custody, eight are at trial, and one is appealing his conviction. Proceedings against 17 have been completed: three have been convicted, one has been acquitted, six have had the charges against them dismissed, two have had the charges against them withdrawn, one has had his case declared inadmissible, and four have died before trial. [Source: Wikipedia]

Among them was the late dictator Muammar Gaddafi and his son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who were both killed in the aftermath of the Libyan revolution.

So far, four had been convicted, to wit:

Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo.

Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo.

Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo – A politician in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He leads the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC), a rebel group turned political party. He was elected president in 2006 and senator in 2007. On May 24, 2008, he was arrested near Brussels on the basis of an arrest warrant issued by the ICC. He was charged with two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes. On March 21, 2016, he was convicted on these charges. On June 21, 2016, he was imprisoned on a 19-year sentence following a landmark conviction at the ICC. In September 2016, he appealed against his conviction alleging a mistrial.  He awaits further sentencing for corruptly influencing witnesses through means of bribery during his trial for war crimes.

Germain Katanga.

Germain Katanga.

Germain Katanga (aka Simba) – A former leader of the Patriotic Resistance Force in Ituri (FRPI) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On October17, 2007, the Congolese authorities surrendered him to the ICC to stand trial on six counts of war crimes and three counts of crimes against humanity. The charges include murder, sexual slavery, rape, willful killing, and directing crimes against civilians, to name a few. On March 7, 2014, the ICC convicted Katanga on five counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity as an accessory to the February 2003 massacre in the village of Bogoro. The verdict was the second-ever conviction in the 12 years of operation of the ICC. It followed the 2012 conviction of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo.

Thomas Lubanga Dyilo.

Thomas Lubanga Dyilo.

Thomas Lubanga Dyilo – A convicted war criminal from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he was the first person ever convicted by the ICC. He led the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) and was a key player in the Ituri conflict. On March 17,2006, her became the fist person arrested under a warrant issued by the ICC. He was charged of “conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities.” On July 10, 2012, he was found guilty and sentenced to 14 years of imprisonment.

Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi.

Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi.

Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi (aka Abu Tourab)He was a member of Ansar Dine, a Tuareg Islamist militia in North Africa. In 2006, he pleaded guilty in the ICC for the war crime of attacking religious and historical buildings in the Malian city of Timbuktu. He was the first person convicted by the ICC for such a crime. He was sentenced to nine years in prison.

Complaint against Duterte

Sen. Leila de Lima.

Sen. Leila de Lima.

Last October, Sen. Leila de Lima called for an international investigation into the country’s drug war, which had left 4,000 people dead during Duterte ‘s first four months in office. De Lima, a former justice secretary said that the extrajudicial killings (EJKs) must end and that the ICC should investigate them.

The following month, Duterte came to the attention of the ICC. An ICC judge said she was closely monitoring Duterte’s “war on drugs” for possible human rights violations.

Attorney Jude Sabio in front of the ICC building.

Attorney Jude Sabio in front of the ICC building.

Last April 24, attorney Jude Sabio, a lawyer for confessed hitman Edgar Matobato, filed a 77-page criminal complaint against Duterte and at least 11 senior government officials in the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, the Netherlands. The complaint alleges that Duterte and the others were liable for murder and called for an investigation, arrest warrants, and a trial. Sabio said that Duterte “repeatedly, unchangingly and continuously” committed crimes against humanity and that under him, killing drug suspects and other criminals has become “best practice.”

Hitman Edgar Matobato testifies before a Senate panel.

Hitman Edgar Matobato testifies before a Senate panel.

The complaint was based on the testimony of Matobato and another confessed hitman, retired policeman Arturo Lascanas, and statements from rights groups and media reports, including a recent Reuters series detailing the killings. The question is: What are the chances of convicting Duterte based on Sabio’s complaint? It’s not easy. And the fact that Duterte would still be president until May 2022, it would be very unlikely to bring him to trial.

The ICC’ing of Duterte

“Stop Summary Killings” rally in Manila.

“Stop Summary Killings” rally in Manila.

Since 2002, the ICC has received over 12,000 complaints or communications, of which nine have gone to trial and six verdicts have been delivered. The ICC has no powers of enforcement, and any non-compliance has to be referred to the United Nations or the court’s own oversight and legislative body, the Assembly of States Parties.

Of the six verdicts rendered by ICC, four were convicted as mentioned earlier. But it took the cooperation of their governments to bring them to justice. In the case of Duterte, it would be virtually impossible for the Philippine government to turn him over to ICC. So why even file a complaint against him?

While Duterte is safe from ICC prosecution for as long as he remains on Philippine soil, he can be served an ICC arrest warrant in another country where he may be visiting, provided that country is a signatory to the Rome Statute and would cooperate with the ICC, as in the case of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo.

At the end of the day, the ICC case against of Duterte, while it may seem like an exercise in futility, would bring the killings to the consciousness of the international community who can then use political pressure and economic sanctions including the freezing of foreign bank accounts of Duterte and his cohorts.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)