SC urged to act on petition vs PH withdrawal from ICC

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 15 2019 05:58 PM

MANILA - Two days before the Philippines’ withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) takes effect, a group who advocated for the Philippines’ inclusion in the ICC has asked the Supreme Court to act on its petition questioning the country’s withdrawal.

The Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court (PCICC) is one of two petitioners seeking the reversal of the Philippines’ withdrawal from the ICC together with minority senators.

In an urgent motion filed on Friday, PCICC cited the impending effectivity of the withdrawal and its adverse effects.

“If and when the withdrawal takes effect, petitioners submit that it would mean Filipinos would be deprived of effective remedies, provided for under international law and constitutional law, against any potential international crimes—such as genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes— committed within the Philippine territory from 17 March 2019 onwards,” the motion said.

“Further, if and when the withdrawal takes effect, petitioners submit that it would mean Filipinos would be deprived of effective remedies provided for under international law and constitutional law in the event that there is inaction by Philippine law enforcement authorities to investigate or prosecute impunity committed in the Philippines,” it added.

The Rome Statute recognizes individual criminal responsibility for crimes committed within the jurisdiction of the ICC, subject to the complementarity principle which requires that a state must be unwilling or unable to genuinely investigate or prosecute perpetrators.

“Indeed, petitioners fear that with the withdrawal taking effect without this Honorable Court’s action, those who kill with impunity will only be further emboldened,” PCICC said.

The SC has taken no action so far on the petitions despite having held 3 sessions of oral arguments last year.

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.

The withdrawal will take effect on Sunday.

In their petitions before the high court, the minority senators argued the withdrawal was invalid because it did not have Senate concurrence, while PCICC claimed the President committed grave abuse of discretion when he decided to withdraw from the ICC solely based on capricious and whimsical reasons.

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.

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.