PH reaffirms support, but reminds ICC not to meddle in affairs

THE Philippine government is capable of solving crimes committed in the country given its functional criminal justice system, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. assured the International Criminal Court (ICC) in New York on Thursday, December 7.

Roque said that while the Philippines reaffirmed its support to the principles of ICC, the international court should bear in mind that it only serves as a "court of last resort."

He reminded ICC not to meddle in state parties' proceedings, "unless it can be shown that the state party is unwilling or unable to investigate and prosecute such crimes."

"The state parties to the Rome Statute envisioned a court with a complementary, not primary, jurisdiction for the prosecution of the persons most responsible for the most serious crimes of international concern," Roque said during the general debate of the 16th assembly of state parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC.

"In cases of allegations that crimes under the jurisdiction of the court have been committed within the territory of a state party or by its nationals, the Rome Statute requires the Court and other bodies, such as the Office of the Prosecutor, to respect and defer to the primary criminal jurisdiction of such state party," he added.

Prior to his attendance to the general debate in New York, Roque on Tuesday, December 5, floated the possibility that the Philippines may withdraw its membership from the ICC, if the latter violates the "principle of complementarity."

The principle of complementarity, as defined by ICC, states that the international court may only exercise jurisdiction where national legal systems fail to do so, including whether they purport to act but in reality are unwilling or unable to genuinely carry out proceedings.

The Philippines is among the parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC.

In November 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte said the Philippines might follow Russia's decision to withdraw from ICC, which he called "useless."

Duterte is facing complaints filed before the ICC by self- confessed hitman Edgar Matobato's lawyer Jude Sabio, Senator Antonio Trillanes, and Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano for crimes against humanity in relation to the rising death toll in the government's war on drugs.

Article 127(1) of ICC Statute provides that a state party may withdraw from the ICC through written notification addressed to the Secretary General of the United Nations. The withdrawal from ICC will take effect a year after the date of receipt of the notification.

Roque said the ICC should not worry about how the Philippines handles issues that pose risks to the people, noting that it has "functioning" laws and criminal justice system.

"There is no question that the Philippines has long since had laws and functioning criminal justice system able to investigate and prosecute such crimes in its territory," the presidential spokesman said.

"The Philippines therefore is prepared to act, as we have always so acted, to bring to bear our national criminal justice system upon those who violate our laws and pose a threat to our national security," he added.

He stressed that the ICC must respect the national ongoing proceedings, in consistence with the Philippines' sovereign right and responsibility to prosecute crimes, as well as with the international court's principle of complementarity.

He also urged the ICC to resist attempts by some sectors to use it as a "venue to pursue political agenda to destabilize governments and undermine legitimate national authorities."

"It is indeed actions like these that politicize and dilute the court's mandate which ultimately undermine national efforts to punish and prosecute crimes covered by the statute and derail current efforts to achieve universality of the Rome Statute," Roque said.

"We trust that the court's exercise of its mandate will respect national processes geared towards exacting criminal accountability for conduct committed within our territory." (SunStar Philippines)
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