By Genalyn Kabiling
The Philippines’ pullout from the International Criminal Court (ICC) is apparently final.
The government has ruled out any possibility of reconsidering its withdrawal from the Rome Statute that created the Hague-based tribunal, as it sent formal notice to the United Nations about its decision.
“Naku, too late. Too late po, parang nakaalis na po ang tren (It’s too late. The train has already left),” Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a television interview.
Roque said it was “unacceptable” that the ICC has violated the “principle of complementarity” by initiating a preliminary examination into the alleged crimes committed in the government’s drug war. He said the principle of complementarity states that the ICC would only exercise jurisdiction if the state party of the accused is unable or unwilling to prosecute the crime.
“Insulto po iyang ginawa ni prosecutor na kinondena niya ang ating hukuman na para bagang inutil dahil gagana lang naman ang ICC kung ang lokal na mga procedure at mga hukuman ay inutil doon sa mukha ng impunity (The action of the prosecutor was an insult because she was condemning our courts that were supposedly inutile because the ICC will only act if the local procedures, courts are inutile in dealing with impunity),” he said, referring to ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda who recently announced the inquiry into the drug war.
Roque insisted that the ICC was not the court of first instance but the court of last resort.
“Ang nangyari po rito ay para bagang hindi gumagana ang ating mga hukuman sa Pilipinas kaya nagsimula ng preliminary examination. Iyan po ay hindi katanggap-tanggap dahil labag ito doon sa consent na ating ibinigay para maging miyembro tayo ng ICC (What happened is the courts in the Philippines were supposedly not working so a preliminary examination was started. That is unacceptable because it violated the consent we gave to become a member of the ICC),” he added.
Roque made the remarks after the international court appealed to the Philippines to remain a state party to the Rome Statute that aims to end impunity for crimes under international law.
The Philippines has sent a formal letter to the United Nations about its withdrawal from the founding treaty international tribunal, ratified by the country back in 2011. The letter was delivered by Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations Teodoro Locsin Jr. to the UN Chef de Cabinet Maria Luiza Viotti this morning.
In the letter, the Philippines explained that its withdrawal of support from the ICC was a principled stand against “those who politicize and weaponize human rights.”
Despite its departure from the tribunal, the country told the UN that it would continue to be guided by the rule of law as well as uphold human rights. It also expressed commitment “to fight against impunity for atrocity crimes.”
OnWednesday, President Duterte announced that the Philippines was pulling out its support from the ICC “immediately” after protesting the “baseless” and “outrageous” attacks against him, violations of due process, among others.
The President also claimed that the court has been used as a “political tool against the Philippines” as he deplored the lack of respect and bias against the country by some UN and ICC officials.
Duterte’s decision came weeks after the international crime court initiated a preliminary examination into the alleged crimes against humanity committed in the government’s brutal war on illegal drugs.
Malacañang has recognized that the ICC could resume its preliminary examination on the drug war despite the country’s withdrawal of its signature from the Rome Statute.
But if there is “no preliminary investigation” within the one-year withdrawal period, Roque said such complaint against the government “dies.”
“Kung tutuloy naman iyang kasong iyan, haharapin naman po iyan ng Presidente (If the case proceeds, the President will face that),” he said.
But whether or not the ICC would proceed with the inquiry, Roque asserted that the court would never have jurisdiction over the President.
Duterte earlier said the Rome Statute was not effective and enforceable in the country due to lack of publication in the Official Gazette as required by the country’s law.
He said that even if the ICC has jurisdiction over him, the accusations against him “do not fall under the enumerated grounds” of the international law. “The acts allegedly committed by me are neither genocide nor war crimes. Neither is it a crime of aggression or a crime against humanity,” he said.