A PALACE official on Thursday predicted “an avalanche of countries” will follow the Philippines’ lead and withdraw from the International Criminal Court, causing the UN-backed tribunal to collapse.
“President Duterte’s decision to withdraw from the tribunal is the beginning of the end of ICC and may prompt other nations to opt out as well,” said Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque.
No state, he added would “tolerate an unaccountable prosecutor conducting preliminary examination in brazen violation of the principle of complementarity.”
In a press briefing in Malacañang, Roque said that three other countries had given notice to withdraw from the ICC.
“One actually withdrew—Burundi—while two others relented,” Roque said.
He said no other Asian nation would join the ICC because the Philippines was the one that had previously been trying to convince them to be members.
“In the first place, we don’t have universal ratification,” Roque said, pointing out that only 124 countries out of 198 are members.
He added that even major powers such as the United States, Russia and China are not members of the court.
“What’s important now is countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, countries which we have been convincing to join the ICC would not join the ICC now. Perhaps the Indonesians and Thais are now telling us ‘See, we told you not join the court, see what happened to you now,’” he said.
Roque cited as “baseless, unprecedented and outrageous” the attacks against President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration, and the attempt of the ICC prosecutor to place the President under the tribunal’s jurisdiction.
Roque said the ICC violated its “complementarity” rule when it began its initial examination into the complaint against President Duterte, who is being blamed for the deaths of thousands of suspected drug pushers and users in the government’s war on drugs.
“This is not even part of the formal procedure of the court yet. But as a matter of principle, the fact that it started preliminary examination already violates the very fundamental basis by which we gave our consent to be part of the ICC,” he said.
He said the ICC has also been used as a “political tool against the Philippines” because of the unfounded attacks against the President by ICC and United Nations officials.
On Wednesday, Duterte insisted that the ICC has no jurisdiction nor will it acquire jurisdiction over him, as he said the Rome Statute was not effective nor enforceable in the country due to the lack of publication required by domestic law following its ratification in 2011.
Even if the ICC has jurisdiction over him, the accusations against him “do not fall under the enumerated grounds” of the international law, Roque said.
The acts allegedly committed by the President are neither genocide nor war crimes, he added.
Roque also said the President did not need the approval of the Senate to withdraw from the ICC.
“There is no obligation to do so. Is there anything that says that the cxecutive needs to consult with the Senate when we withdraw from a treaty? None,” Roque said at a press briefing.
Roque said even Senator Franklin Drilon admitted that the Senate had no say on the country’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC.
Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, meanwhile, said the President’s withdrawal from the ICC was not aimed at avoiding the ICC’s examination of alleged human rights violations in the country’s war on drugs.
He said actions taken while the country was a member was still subject to ICC review.
“You will not be liable only on actions taken after the withdrawal. But before that, you’re still liable,” he added.
The initial examination aims to determine if a full-blown investigation is warranted.
At the same time, Cayetano pointed out that ICC cannot just take jurisdiction over cases involving alleged state-sanctioned killings in the country, unless it can be proven that the country’s judicial system is no longer working.
“Under the Rome Statute, they can only take over if the country’s judicial system is not working,” he said.
Former Ateneo School of Government dean Antonio La Viña shared the view of Cayetano that the complaint against Duterte would continue despite the withdrawal from the ICC.
President Duterte has been saying that ICC had no jurisdiction over him because the international court may only exercise jurisdiction if the country’s courts are unable or unwilling to hear cases related to drug-related killings. He also said the war on drugs is a sovereign act.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II supported the President’s decision because of the manifest bias shown by United Nations special rapporteurs against Duterte.
“I support the President’s decision because of the evident bias of the rapporteurs, particularly their head who said that the President should consult a shrink. That’s not right,” Aguirre said.
UN Human Rights High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said Duterte’s profanity-laced speeches against UN’s rapporteurs, whom the President accused of being biased, suggested that he needs “some sort of psychiatric evaluation.”
Aguirre also parroted the President’s view that the ICC had no jurisdiction because the Rome treaty that created it was never published in any Philippine publication.
“All laws in the Philippines, issued in the Philippines, even the lowliest resolution or ordinance of a municipal council has to be published if it has penal provision,” he said, noting that the Rome Statute also carried penal provisions.
Before the Philippines did so, Burundi, Gambia, and South Africa attempted to withdraw from the ICC.
Only Burundi went through with the proceedings and left the court on Oct. 27, 2017. Burundi filed its withdrawal after the ICC announced an examination on various human rights violations in the country, including extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture, and sexual violence.
Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros said Duterte’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute showed he was afraid of being subjected to international scrutiny and prosecution.
“Instead of trying to desperately evade his international obligations and escape accountability for his actions, President Duterte should just recognize the ICC processes and accord it due respect,” she said.
“If the President believes that he is innocent of the charges lodged against him, if the countless extrajudicial killings under his bloody drug war are just the product of our imagination, and if his government’s war against drugs is not abusive and corrupt, he has nothing to fear from the ICC,” she added.
Her view was shared by opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman, who said the withdrawal from the ICC was a “virtual admission” of Duterte’s guilt.
“Duterte cannot overcome overwhelming evidence against him consisting of his own incriminating utterances of instigation and condonation, and unassailable records of extrajudicial killings consequent to his brutal war on drugs,” Lagman told reporters.
The ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor announced in February that it will conduct a preliminary examination on allegations of crimes against humanity against Duterte and several officials of his administration over the war on drugs.
Lagman also said the withdrawal from the ICC would not affect its proceedings. With Macon Ramos-Araneta