MANILA - The Supreme Court has not taken any action on petitions questioning President Rodrigo Duterte's order for the country's withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) 5 days before it takes effect, two sources from the high court told ABS-CBN News Tuesday.
This means the withdrawal would most likely push through on Sunday, March 17, unless the Duterte administration itself decides to reverse its action.
Duterte had in March last year ordered the country's pullout from the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the ICC, after the tribunal announced it would initiate a preliminary examination of alleged crimes against humanity under his war on drugs.
Magistrates met for the weekly SC en banc session on Tuesday, the high court’s last opportunity to decide on how to act on two pending petitions against the withdrawal.
But two insiders privy to the proceedings said the petitions were not taken up.
A source pointed out to ABS-CBN News that the petitioners did not ask for a temporary restraining order or any immediate remedy from the Court.
The first plea was filed by opposition lawmakers Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Francis Pangilinan, Bam Aquino IV, Leila de Lima, Risa Hontiveros and Antonio Trillanes IV on May 16, 2018, arguing that the Philippines’ withdrawal of its ratification from the Rome Statute requires the concurrence of at least 2/3 of the members of the Senate.
This petition asked the high court to declare the withdrawal invalid or ineffective and compel the Executive Department to cancel, revoke or withdraw the instrument of withdrawal the Philippines filed before the United Nations Secretary General on March 17, 2018.
Under the Rome Statute, withdrawal from the ICC takes effect one year after the deposit of the instrument of withdrawal.
The second petition was filed by the Philippine Coalition for the ICC (PCICC) on June 13, 2018 claiming the President committed grave abuse of discretion when he decided to withdraw from the ICC solely based on “capricious, whimsical, ridiculous, misleading or misled, incoherent and/or patently false grounds, with no basis in fact, law or jurisprudence.”
It asked the high court to declare the notice of withdrawal void and issue a writ of mandamus to compel the Executive Department to recall and revoke the notice of withdrawal and to submit the question of the country’s pullout from the Rome Statute to the Senate for deliberation.
The President had cited alleged bias of UN officials and claimed the ICC was being used as a political tool against him as his bases for withdrawing from the ICC.
Malacañang had also maintained the treaty did not take effect in the country because it was not published in a newspaper of general circulation.
It also said the Philippine justice system is working, as shown by the conviction of cops involved in the murder of teenage Kian delos Santos, thus it could not be said that Philippine authorities were unwilling or unable to genuinely carry out investigations and prosecutions of perpetrators so as to allow the ICC to step in.
The ICC is the world’s permanent war crimes court that tackles cases that local tribunals could not handle, among them mass killings and other forms of abuses.
The court, based in The Hague, has drawn criticism over controversial rulings, such as the acquittal of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo on charges of crimes against humanity. Burundi quit the tribunal in 2017, becoming the first country to do so.
Probe vs PH drug war
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in February 2018 announced the tribunal was opening preliminary examination on the drug war in the Philippines following receipt of reports of alleged extrajudicial killings in the course of police anti-drug operations.
A month after, Duterte announced the Philippines was withdrawing from the ICC. He has defended his anti-drug campaign, saying suspects slain in police operations had violently resisted arrest.
During oral arguments on the petitions in October last year, Solicitor General Jose Calida insisted that the country's withdrawal from the Rome Statute was the prerogative of the President and a political question that the SC cannot delve into.
He also argued that Senate concurrence is required only in ratifying a treaty, not in withdrawing from it.
He added that the withdrawal from the ICC had already become valid and effective through the delivery of a note verbale to the Secretary General of the United Nations.
Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, meanwhile, expressed doubt if the Philippine Supreme Court can annul the decision of the ICC to accept the Philippines' withdrawal from the Rome Statute.
PCIIC Co-Chair Ray Paolo Santiago on Monday told ABS-CBN News that should the high court fail to act on their petition before the withdrawal takes effect, the pleas would most likely become “moot and academic,” a ground for dismissing a petition before the SC as any ruling would no longer have any practical relevance.
Santiago expressed disappointment that while it took the Philippines a long time to ratify the Rome Statute, the President could, on his own initiative, withdraw from the treaty meant to provide additional protection for Filipinos.
The Philippines signed the Rome Statute on December 28, 2000 but it was not until August 23, 2011 that the Senate gave its concurrence to ratify the treaty. The Philippines deposited its instrument of accession on August 30, 2011 and the Rome Statute entered into force in the country on November 1, 2011.