ICC exit to hit Philippines' international credibility - lawyer

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 19 2018 11:08 AM | Updated as of Mar 19 2018 11:26 AM

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MANILA - The Philippines' credibility among its international peers will take a hit if it pushes through with its planned withdrawal from the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court, a lawyer said Monday.

Foreign relations depends on "a certain level of trustworthiness and consistency with regard to our positioning internationally," and President Rodrigo Duterte pushing through with his pronouncement might not be good because "positioning yourself outside of the mainstream of the international legal system is never going to be a good thing," said law professor Barry Gutierrez.

"You don’t sign on a treaty, promise to do these things, and then at the first sign of a potentially negative outcome—it’s a potentially negative outcome at this stage; nothing has happened—you’re going to say, ‘Ayaw na namin’ and you’re going to withdraw," he told ANC's Headstart.

"In international law, there’s really no regular standing court that you can bring grievances to if a state doesn’t honor its promises; there’s only the word of the states. Once that is questioned, then other nations might have doubts whether they should enter into an agreement with us," he said.

Gutierrez, who is also the legal counsel to Vice President Leni Robredo, said while there might not be immediate effects to the economy, other countries which had problematic human rights records and were regarded as rogue states by the international community faced sanctions and had their preferred trade status removed. Investors were discouraged from investing there, he said.

"If you’re dealing with a country which is unreliable, which has a poor track record on human rights, which does not abide by the rule of law, then that’s not going to be an encouraging sign for other countries to ask their citizens to invest in this country or for these countries to enter into trade agreements," he said.

Duterte last week announced his government’s decision to withdraw the country’s ratification of the Rome Statute because of the ICC’s “politicized” nature.

He and other senior government and police officers were accused of committing crimes against humanity in the war on drugs. The ICC has informed the government it would begin its “preliminary examination” into the communication filed by Jude Sabio.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, who before joining the government had championed the Philippines' ratification of the Rome Statute, said United Nations high commissioner for human rights Zeid bin Ra’ad al-Hussein’s remark against Duterte was among the reasons the Chief Executive decided to withdraw the treaty.

Zeid’s statement that Duterte should see a psychiatrist “convinced” the President “that there must be some kind of a conspiracy on the part of pressure groups and UN officials to shame him,” said Roque.

NOT JUST A WESTERN CONCEPT

Although he agreed that withdrawing from the UN after a run-in with the high commissioner would be consistent with Duterte's standing, Gutierrez said doing so would make the Philippines an "international pariah" and will face "terrible repercussions."

Gutierrez, who was director of the Institute of Human Rights at the UP Law Center, said Filipinos were "architects" of the UN system and the international human rights system.

"When we say these are foreign, western impositions, that’s wrong. These are the products of our efforts, the efforts of Filipinos. We have been at the forefront of promoting international human rights. We are a signatory to every human right treaty there is. We are looked upon as a leader in this area by the world, and for the most part, that has redounded to our benefit," he said.

"It’s very saddening for me to see that right now, we seem to be on a path to repudiate all those decades of Philippine leadership on international human rights and the UN. That’s the unfortunate thing here," he said.

But Gutierrez is still hopeful that government officials, like Roque, would be able to convince Duterte to rethink his move.

"He’s the president of our country, he has a legacy to look at, he has a whole international context to consider and I hope that comes into play in any decision in the future," he said.