By Genalyn Kabiling
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo has apologized to the family of the late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago for being hurt by his controversial remark about the election of the senator as International Criminal Court (ICC) judge.
Panelo however stood firm that the late senator’s election to the ICC was void since the Philippines was never part of the international tribunal in the first place.
“I will apologize for hurting her feelings,” Panelo said during a Palace press briefing.
“I’m apologizing for hurting her but I think the concern and the hurt is misplaced. I am an admirer and a friend of the late Miriam Defensor Santiago,” he added.
Linn Defensor-Evangelista, the sister of the senator, recently denounced the Palace official for dismissing the senator’s election as an ICC judge as void, saying such pronouncement was “irresponsible, offensive and full of malice.”
Evangelista also challenged the Palace official to withdraw such statement and apologize.
“I am beyond upset; this is a cowardly attack and an evil attempt to undermine that which is true. I have been a close witness to Miriam’s hard work and dedication,” she said.
“Despite her encyclopedic knowledge of constitutional and international law, she continued to learn and affirm her knowledge by constant learning- waking up really early or staying up all night to read books, documents, opinions and intelligent discourse,” she added.
Panelo, however, said the senator’s sister could have “misunderstood” his statement.
“What I said if the theory is that we were never under the jurisdiction of the ICC, it goes without saying, that’s the logic, any appointment to international court would be void,” he said.
Panelo maintained that the Rome Statute, which created the ICC, was never enforced in the country since it was not published on the Official Gazette or a newspaper, a requirement before it becomes a law.
Santiago was elected ICC judge in 2011 but gave up the post in 2014 due to health condition. She passed away in 2016.
Panelo maintained that Santiago was “very much qualified to be a justice,” adding she had the credentials.
“But the problem is prior to the assumption of the president, nobody knew that we were never under the jurisdiction of the ICC. Everybody took for granted that we signed a treaty that we were under the jurisdiction of the ICC,” he said.
“But the problem is the Constitution requires that a law, before it becomes enforceable, it must be published in the Official Gazette. The Rome Statute was never published in the Official Gazette and newspaper,” he added.
President Duterte announced the country’s pullout from the ICC last year, complaining of the lack of due process after it launched a preliminary inquiry in the alleged abuses linked to his war on drugs. The country’s withdrawal from the ICC formally took effect early month.