Withdrawal from ICC will not stop probe on Duterte, solons say

THE Philippines' withdrawal from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) will not stop the preliminary examination of allegations of human rights violations against President Rodrigo Duterte, opposition lawmakers said Wednesday, March 14.

The President could not also detach immediately from the ICC since Article 127 of the Rome Statute, which the Philippines ratified in 2011, provides that the “withdrawal shall take effect one year after the date of receipt of the notification, unless the notification specifies a later date.”

Albay Representative Edcel Lagman pointed this out on Wednesday in reaction to a Palace statement that announced the President's decision to pull out of the treaty "effective immediately."

Lagman further pointed out that the withrawal cannot derail the ongoing preliminary examination of Duterte's alleged crimes against humanity in relation to his administration's drug war.

Lagman cited the same Article which states that: "Its withdrawal shall not affect any cooperation with the Court in connection with criminal investigations and proceedings in relation to which the withdrawing State had a duty to cooperate and which were commenced prior to the date on which the withdrawal became effective, nor shall it prejudice in any way the continued consideration of any matter which was already under consideration by the Court prior to the date on which the withdrawal became effective."

Human Rights Watch Philippines, in a Facebook post, also made the same observation and warned that "those responsible for ICC crimes committed in the Philippines while the country is still a member could find themselves facing justice in The Hague."

Param-Preet Singh, associate director for international justice program of Human Rights Watch, said Duterte's decision to pull out of the ICC is unfortunate, but it will not stop the ICC prosecutor from scrutinizing the government's "track record of grave abuses."

Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin, for his part, said that President cannot, by himself, decide to withdraw the Philippines' ratification of the Rome Statute, the treaty which created the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Villarin stressed that the decision needs the Senate's concurrence.

According to Villarin, the Senate passed a resolution last year which requires Senate concurrence if the country withdraws from a treaty.

The 1987 Constitution gives the President the power to make treaties, provided that two-thirds of the Senate concur.

Villarin also said that as a signatory to the Rome Statute and other treaty obligations, the decision of the President will be tantamount to reneging all other international commitments and obligations that would have unprecedented repercussions to the country's international standing as a sovereign state.

He said it will also encourage China to scoff at the Philippines' victory at the UN Arbitral Tribunal over the West Philippine Sea and physically wrest sovereignty over the Philippine islands.

"We would be the boy crying wolf with nobody coming to our rescue," Villarin said.

"Indeed it is a major foreign policy blunder that will take years to mend, if it can be mended at all," he added.

Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat shares the same sentiment.

He said the country cannot get out of ICC that easy.

"Since this administration is so convinced that its drug war is justified and that there are no human rights violations then it should have nothing to fear about being investigated by the ICC," Baguilat said.

"Also, we cannot get out of ICC jurisdiction just like that. There is a process that has to be followed. We need to notify the ICC and only after a year can the withdawal take effect," he added.

Baguilat hopes that Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr., a former human rights lawyer who had pushed for the ratification of the Rome treaty, can provide better advice to the President. (SunStar Philippines)
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