MANILA- The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Friday urged the Philippines not to push through with its plan to withdraw its ratification of the treaty that created the tribunal.
In a statement, the international court noted Manila's intention to withdraw based on news reports but emphasized that it has yet to be notified by the United Nations Secretary-General, the depositary of the Rome Statute.
The ICC called upon the Philippine government not to continue with its planned withdrawal from among states that ratified the statute, a 1998 UN treaty which created the ICC, citing the importance of Manila's membership.
"The Court encourages the Philippines to not follow through with the reported intention to withdraw, as it is an important State Party to the Rome Statute...." the ICC said.
"The membership of the Philippines in the system is essential for the aspirations toward universal ratification of the Rome Statute and strengthening the international rule of law," it added.
President Rodrigo Duterte, in a statement on Wednesday, announced his government’s decision to withdraw the country’s ratification of the Rome Statute, saying the ICC’s “politicized” nature has prompted him to do so.
He also cited the supposed failure of the previous government to publish the treaty in the Official Gazette or newspaper of general circulation as a reason why it is “not effective nor enforceable” in the Philippines.
This as the ICC announced that it would begin its “preliminary examination” into the communication filed by Jude Sabio, lawyer of confessed hitman Edgar Matobato, who accused Duterte, senior government officials, and several police officers of committing crimes against humanity in his controversial war on drugs, citing alleged extrajudicial slays.
The administration has many times denied hand in supposed summary killings.
The ICC acknowledged that the Philippines has the right to withdraw but maintained that the pullout would not have any effect on any ongoing proceeding prior to the effectivity of the withdrawal.
"A withdrawal would have no impact on on-going proceedings or any matter which was already under consideration by the Court prior to the date on which the withdrawal became effective," it said.
Nearly 4,000 drug suspects have been killed in drug operations since Duterte assumed office in July 2016. Officials have said police officers fired at them in self-defense, as the suspects put up violent resistance.
Human rights groups, however, believe this number is understated as it does not include those killed by so-called vigilantes, some of whom were alleged to be state-sponsored.
Duterte, known for his tough language, previously said he was ready to face the ICC and answer all the allegations against him.
He even said, albeit in jest, that he was willing to be executed through a firing squad if proven guilty. Later, Duterte said the ICC can never have jurisdiction over him.
"Any act that may set back the global movement towards greater accountability for atrocity crimes and the international rule of law is, therefore, regrettable," the ICC added.