MANILA - The chief lawyer of President Rodrigo Duterte claimed on Thursday that the International Criminal Court's (ICC) "Rome Statute" does not recognize the Philippine Constitution, justifying the country's withdrawal from the treaty.
Speaking to ANC, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said among the provisions of the Constitution the Rome Statute ignores is the immunity of the President from suits, which for him is equivalent to "fraud."
"There is such thing as rescission of contract when there is fraud. Where is fraud there? When we enter into that agreement, it presupposes that the Rome Statute will recognize our Constitution but it does not," he said.
Asked if the tough-talking Duterte is scared of a possible formal investigation by the International Criminal Court , as some critics say, Panelo said, "I don't think so."
The President is [a] tough fighter, very courageous in facing the odds against him," he said. "He is a lawyer. And we, lawyers, are trained to be strictly observant of the constitution says. The law says there is no Rome Statute to speak of."
Duterte, who is accused of crimes against humanity before the ICC, earlier dared the ICC to indict him and said he was willing to "rot in jail" or go on trial to defend the war on drugs.
Since it was set up in July 2002, the ICC has received over 12,000 complaints or communications. Nine of these cases have gone to trial and six verdicts have been delivered.
In the interview Panelo said the ICC violated the "complementarity" rule when it started a preliminary examination on the charges against Duterte related to his war on drugs. Under the rule, the ICC can only investigate a case if domestic courts are unable or unwilling do so.
The lawyer said a preliminary examination already means the ICC is exercising jurisdiction.
"What did the special prosecutor do? She announced that there is a preliminary examination. That created an impression that the President is going to be subjected to an investigation prematurely... They shouldn't have made the announcement," he said.