Philippines no longer part of ICC

MANILA, Philippines — Starting today, the Philippines will no longer be a part of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The country’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute, the international treaty that created the ICC, takes effect today, one year after the Philippines notified the United Nations of its decision last March 17, 2018.

It was then Philippine ambassador to the UN in New York and now Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. who notified the international body of the country’s decision to leave the tribunal.

An appeal was also filed before the Supreme Court, but no ruling stopping the withdrawal has been issued.

The ICC said the country’s withdrawal will not stop the examination as it retains jurisdiction over crimes committed during the time in which the state was party to the Rome Statute.

The Philippines ratified the Rome Statute in August 2011. It officially entered into force three months later.

Commission on Human Rights chairman Chito Gascon said all crimes committed between Nov. 1, 2011 and March 17, 2019 will still be under the jurisdiction of the ICC despite the country’s withdrawal.

According to ICC, the preliminary examination being conducted by the prosecutor is not an investigation.

“It is an initial step to determine whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation. Specifically, under article 53(1) of the Rome Statute, the prosecutor must consider issues of jurisdiction, admissibility and the interests of justice in making this determination,” it said in a statement on the withdrawal of the Philippines.

“Should, at the conclusion of the preliminary examination process, the prosecutor decide to proceed with an investigation, authorization from a Pre-Trial Chamber of the Court would be required. The court’s judges would then make an independent assessment as to whether the statutory criteria for the opening of an investigation are met,” it added.

Gascon earlier predicted that Bensouda’s office would move forward with the case on the human rights situation in the Philippines.

“I feel very strongly in my gut that the ICC will probably move this to formal investigation within the first quarter of next year,” he told The STAR in an earlier interview.

“Ultimately, when the ICC moves to the next stage – from preliminary examination to formal investigation – there will be witnesses who will come forward, members of the Davao death squad or members of the death squad set up after 2016 will come forward and start pointing fingers,” he added.

Established in 2002, the ICC was created to prosecute cases identified by the Rome Statute as international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.

The ICC, in its statement on the withdrawal of the Philippines, said the continued support of members is essential to global efforts to ensure accountability and strengthen the international rule of law.

“The Rome Statute system, with the ICC at its center, has judicially addressed and galvanized national and international efforts to address the most serious crimes under international law such as the use of child soldiers, sexual violence in conflict, torture, willful killing and the destruction of cultural heritage,” it said.

“The court remains fully committed to its independent mandate to help end impunity in a complementary manner with States, and in so doing, contribute to the prevention of future atrocities. States’ participation in the Rome Statute ought not only be maintained and reinforced, but enlarged,” added the tribunal.

Last October, Locsin said it was pointless to stay with the ICC, as no major offensive power is currently a member.

“No serious offensive power today – US, China and Russia – is a member of ICC — so doubly pointless to stay. And ICC picks and chooses: those who ICC thinks are easy prey to prove its usefulness,” he wrote on Twitter,

He previously described withdrawing from the ICC as a “sad day but a day sure to come because human rights has been politicized.”

“We resisted US pressure not to join until we finally signed on, only to have it weaponized against our democracy fighting an existential threat from the drug trade,” he said upon depositing the withdrawal notice in the UN.

The then Philippine ambassador to UN said Duterte avoided a “rigged fight” by pulling the country out the international tribunal.

“The ICC has grown weaker and no longer has the authority to look into alleged rights abuses in the Philippines following the country’s pullout from the Rome Statute,” he said, still on Twitter.

“It makes the ICC weaker by yet another withdrawing member joining the ranks of Israel, the US, Russia and, well, China,” added Locsin.

Despite its withdrawal, the Philippines has maintained that it will continue to abide by the rule of law and affirmed its commitment to fight impunity for atrocity crimes.

Philippine ambassador to the Netherlands Jaime Victor Ledda, delivering the country’s statement during the assembly of state parties to the Rome Statute at The Hague last December, said the Philippines has an existing law that would punish crimes identified by the international treaty.

“The Philippines’ decision to withdraw from the Rome Statute of the ICC is our principled stand against those who politicize human rights, even as our country’s independent and well-functioning organs and agencies continue to exercise jurisdiction over complaints, issues, problems and concerns arising from its efforts to protect its people,” read the statement.

“The Philippines is guided by the rule of law embodied in its Constitution, which also enshrines the country’s long-standing tradition and commitment to human rights… Its democratic institutions, including the judiciary, are fully functioning, and government agencies are working together to address the drug problem, from community-level engagements to rehabilitation, from law enforcement to investigation and prosecution,” it added.

US rights report

At Malacañang, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo  reiterated the Duterte administration has never sponsored any form of violation of human rights or suppressed freedom of expression.

He was reacting to the US State Department’s 2018 Human Rights Report on the Philippines.

Contrary to the claim of the political opposition, Panelo said the US government showed appreciation for the Duterte administration’s governance agenda anchored on fighting corruption, criminality and illegal drugs.

“While the political opposition and detractors of the President, including some of those in the mainstream media, would dwell on what they consider as negative observations and milk the same for their political purposes, we prefer to see the glass half full and focus on the positive aspects of the report,” Panelo said.

The Palace noted the 44-page US report recognized great strides made by the Duterte administration in its drug war.

“If only for these positive observations, and there are more, we find the 2018 report by the US State Department relevant,” he said.

Panelo also allayed concerns over alleged pressure the administration exerted on critics.

“The observance of the freedom of expression in this country is such that fabricated portrayals on the war on drugs find print and aired repeatedly reaching the outside world, some of whom recklessly and responsibly believe them without the benefit of validation,” he said.

“We note that there may be isolated accounts of abuse on the part of its law enforcers. We continue to address them and hold the transgressors accountable,” Panelo said.

Panelo said the public should be careful to avoid being deceived by intended negative and false commentaries.

“Its assessment is respectful of the government’s deeper challenges, e.g. deaths of many law enforcement officers during operations, even as accountability of those from the same ranks is guaranteed through investigations of ‘any actions taken outside the rule of law’,” he added, quoting from the report.

Based on the report, Panelo said the US recognizes the sentencing of three police officials involved in the killing of teenager Kian de los Santos during a drug raid.

Panelo noted that the US report also recognized that 1,274,148 drug offenders have surrendered.




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