Supreme Court junks petition vs PH withdrawal from International Criminal Court

MIke Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 16 2021 01:27 PM | Updated as of Mar 16 2021 08:50 PM

MANILA (2nd UPDATE) — The Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously junked petitions challenging President Rodrigo Duterte’s unilateral decision to withdraw the Philippines from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The high court dismissed the petition for being “moot and academic,” its public information office said in a statement.

The SC decision "acknowledged that the President, as primary architect of foreign policy, is subject to the Constitution and existing statute," it said.

"The decision noted that in this case, there were provisions in a prior law, Republic Act No. 9851, which were amended by the Rome Statute," the statement read.

"The Court also noted that the judiciary has enough powers to protect human rights contrary to speculations raised by the petitioners."

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, in a statement, welcomed the SC decision.

He also called on the ICC "not to waste time and resources" on investigating the Duterte administration, saying it "will not prosper as we do not recognize ICC jurisdiction over the Philippines."

Roque said there is "uncontroverted proof that domestic legal and judicial processes are functioning normally in our country."

The Philippines officially withdrew from the ICC on March 17, 2019, exactly a year after the United Nations Secretary General received notification.

Duterte announced in March 2018 that the Philippines was withdrawing from the court, a month after ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said that the ICC was opening a preliminary examination on the drug war in the Philippines, following receipt of reports of alleged extrajudicial killings during police anti-drug operations.

Citing alleged bias of UN officials, Duterte claimed the ICC was being used as a political tool against him.

Malacañang 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 teenager Kian delos Santos. Based on this, 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, it said.

Two petitions were filed at the SC questioning Duterte’s move.

The first petition was filed on May 16, 2018 by opposition Senators Francis Pangilinan, Franklin Drilon, Bam Aquino, Leila de Lima, Risa Hontiveros and Antonio Trillanes IV, arguing that the Philippines’ withdrawal from the Rome Statute, the treaty which created the ICC, requires concurrence of at least 2/3 of the members of the Senate.

A second petition was filed by the Philippine Coalition for the ICC (PCICC) on June 13, 2018, saying Duterte 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.”

During oral arguments on the petitions in October 2018, Solicitor General Jose Calida insisted the withdrawal from the Rome Statute is the prerogative of the President and a political question that the SC cannot delve into.

He also argued 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.

SC GUIDANCE ON UNILATERAL WITHDRAWAL FROM TREATY

Because the petition was declared moot, the Supreme Court no longer resolved the issues. But, according to a source, it issued “guidance on when a treaty may be unilaterally withdrawn."

The Supreme Court has yet to release a copy of the ruling, which a source said is a 100-page decision written by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.

Leonen had expressed doubt if the Philippine Supreme Court can annul the decision of the ICC to accept the Philippines' withdrawal from the Rome Statute during oral arguments on the petition.

- with report from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

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