Philippines' withdrawal big loss to ICC, Palace says
The Philippines' withdrawal to Rome Statute is a big loss to the International Criminal Court as Malacanang expressed hope this would not lead to avalanche of countries wanting to leave.
In a press briefing on Thursday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque blamed ICC prosecutor Fatou Besouda, who is conducting a preliminary examination on the complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte, for Manila's withdrawal.
"Now, as I see it, the International Criminal Court will lose many things. Why? In Southeast Asia, there are only two remaining countries which are members of the ICC - Timor Leste and Cambodia. There's no other country which is really actively inviting, encouraging other countries in Asia to become members of the ICC," he said.
"But this is a decision that?this is a development that the prosecutor should have considered when she decided to embark on preliminary examination," he added.
Roque considered the Philippines as supposedly the strongest ally of the ICC in Asia.
"So to the ICC, to the Assembly of State Parties, they only have to thank the prosecutor for the end of our dream to achieve universal ratification for the ICC. My only hope is that this will not lead into an avalanche of countries wanting to get out from the ICC," he said.
He noted that three other countries have also expressed interest to withdraw their approval to the Rome Statute, which created the ICC.
He said the ICC prosecutor should have immediately dismissed the complaint against Duterte since the Philippine courts are functioning.
He insisted that the ICC should only be a court of last resort.
Duterte has finally decided that the Philippines would withdraw as signatory to the Rome Statute after United Nations High Commission on Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein has said that the Philippine leader needs "psychiatric evaluation" following his administration's petition to the court to include some 600 left-leaning individuals, including a Filipino UN rapporteur, in the terrorist list.
He also branded as malicious the preliminary examination being conducted by Besouda.
He also criticized Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, for allegedly being bias on his administration's war on drugs.
Duterte's order of withdrawal was effective immediately, citing the lack of publication of the treaty after it was signed during the previous administration and for the alleged fraud.
But under Article 127 of the Rome Statute, a state may withdraw from the Statute through written notification to the Secretary General of the United Nations and this shall take effect one year after the date of receipt of the notification, unless the notification specifies a later date.
The same Article also provides that a State shall not be discharged, by reason of its withdrawal, from the obligations arising from this Statute while it was a Party to the Statute.
"Of course, we recognize the principle applicable to withdrawal," Roque said.
However, he reiterated what Duterte has said that ICC would never acquire jurisdiction over his person.
"So this is actually a question which is moot and academic," he said, referring to the Article 127 of the Rome Statute.
Roque, one of the strongest supporters of the Philippines' accession to the Rome Statute when he was not yet in government, admitted that he was saddened because the Philippines has to withdraw from the ICC.
"Yes, it saddens me because our membership to the ICC perhaps is my single most important achievement as a member of civil society," he said.
However, he added, "I agree with the president - we cannot ignore our sovereignty and the basis of the consent to be bound just because of the act of the prosecutor."
He said the issue against Duterte has been politicized.
"You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that a case is politicized when a politician has filed it. It should have been thrown to the waste basket instantly," he said.
Filipino lawyer Jude Sabio, with the backing of opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, filed the complaint against Duterte before the ICC for allegedly committing crimes against humanity due to his bloody war on illegal drugs.
Duterte has insisted that the deaths of thousands of drug suspects happened during the process of legitimate police operation and there was lack of intent from the law enforcers to kill. Celerina Monte/DMS