MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has been elected as a judge in the International Criminal Court, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Tuesday morning. This marks the first time a female judge from a developing Asian country has been elected to the ICC.
“I will be the first Filipino to sit there. Plus, I will be the first Asian from a developing country. So this is an honor for the Philippines actually and for President Aquino who nominated me,” Santiago said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel.
Santiago won as judge in the ICC elections during the 10th session of the Assembly of States Parties in New York on Monday (US time).
“It’s really an achievement of our people there in the UN. It’s really our Department of Foreign Affairs that needs to be congratulated,” she said.
She topped the first round with 79 out of 104 votes, making her the first to be elected out of 18 candidates vying for 6 seats in the ICC Judicial Division.
Will not immediately resign
Winning a seat in the ICC would mean that Santiago would have to give up her post a member of the Philippine Senate. The new post has a 9-year term of office.
“I'd have to resign. But I don't have to resign immediately. People think that once I am elected I have to take the first plane out to The Hague and sit in a court. No. I will take my oath of office in March together with 6 other new judges. They are still in the process of being voted upon. The Philippines was number 1 in the first round of voting. That is something for the Philippines,” she said.
The senator added that the new ICC judges cannot assume office immediately “until we are officially called to report for work”.
“There are 18 judges in the ICC. The rule is, once a judge has participated in the trial of a case, he has to stay beyond his retirement date, until after the trial is finished.”
“That is why I will not leave the Philippine Senate immediately. I might stay for 6 months or a year or more. I can continue my work in the Senate but once I am called to The Hague I will resign,” she said.
'More than qualified'
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario hailed Santiago's victory, saying the senator is more than qualified for the post of ICC judge.
“Dr. Santiago is eminently qualified. She has shown competence and commitment in defense of the rule of law. She has demonstrated her intelligence and legal acumen through her decisions that have been cited by the Philippine Supreme Court. She has shown independence and integrity in her actions. She is more than qualified for this position,” del Rosario said.
“This is the message that we emphasized in the campaign. We are pleased that the international community has listened to us. Indeed, it is a new day for the Philippines, a day of pride for our country and a day of honor, knowing that this is a tremendous responsibility and mandate placed upon our compatriot."
Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Libran N. Cabactulan, likewise, praised Santiago's win. “Dr. Santiago’s triumph is a victory for the entire Philippines and a demonstration of the international community’s complete faith and confidence in her outstanding abilities and of the country’s commitment to the global fight against impunity... We are elated that a Filipina will sit as Judge at the International Criminal Court." - With report from ANC, Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau