Malacañang has insisted that the Philippines was never a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC), as the country’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute became effective on Sunday.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo emphasized that the Philippines never became State Party to the Rome Statute that created the ICC so there is “no basis” for it to investigate the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.
“The Philippines cannot leave that which (it) has never joined in the first place. Our position on the matter remains clear, unequivocal and inflexible: The Philippines never became a State Party to the Rome Statute, which created the ICC. As far as we are concerned, this tribunal is non-existent and its actions a futile exercise,” Panelo said in a statement.
He pointed out that if the Hague-based tribunal should proceed with an investigation, it would mean that it is violating its own provisions by meddling in the country’s sovereignty.
“Should the ICC proceed with its undertakings relative to the Philippines and violate the provisions of the instrument which created it in the process, it can only mean that it is bent on interfering with the sovereignty of our Republic,” Panelo said.
He further said that ICC’s intrusion confirms why other countries, such as Burundi, withdrew their membership. Gambia and South Africa had also withdrawn but eventually rejoined ICC.
“Such intrusion can only validate the theory of the countries that withdrew their membership and those that do not want to join it that the ICC continues to exercise unaccountable prosecutorial powers and has become a tool for political prosecution, thereby a threat to the national sovereignty of countries,” he added.
Panelo further pointed out that jurisdictional crimes of the ICC are already covered by domestic laws in the Philippines.
“Any individual who seeks redress for grievances on any kind of injustice is free to file a complaint with our courts using Philippine laws,” he said.
“Under Article 127 of the Rome Statute, ‘a 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,’” he added.
Panelo also explained the principle of complementarity, where ICC can only have jurisdiction over a State Party if their courts are unwilling or unable to carry out investigation on the crimes.
“Granting arguendo that the Philippines is a State Party to the Rome Statute and its withdrawal therefrom is made pursuant to its Article 127, the condition sine qua non before ICC can exercise jurisdiction over State Parties is their unwillingness or inability to carry out the investigation and prosecution of covered crimes. This is the principle of complementarity,” he said.
Citing the conviction of three police officers involved in the killing of teenager Kian delos Santos, Panelo said that because all courts in the Philippines are functioning, the Judiciary cannot be considered unwilling or unable to prosecute.
“We have a robust judicial system and it soundly operates. The conviction by the Caloocan court of three policemen for the killing of Kian delos Santos is eloquent proof of this, which the State Department of the United States acknowledges in its recent human rights report,” he said.
“There is therefore absolutely no basis for the ICC to continue whatever it started against the President or the Philippines. Nor is there any basis for the opposition and the critics’ perorations on the subject,” he added.
President Rodrigo Duterte said several times that the ICC has no jurisdiction over him as the treaty is “not effective nor enforceable in the Philippines.”
The President also insisted that “an international law cannot supplant, prevail or diminish a domestic law.”
Assuming that the ICC can have jurisdiction over him, Duterte argued that the acts he allegedly committed do not fall under the enumerated grounds by which the ICC can assume jurisdiction.
Duterte has said that the drug-related deaths were the result of “legitimate police operations.” (PNA)