PH not yet off the hook even after quitting ICC

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 17 2019 05:59 PM

PH not yet off the hook even after quitting ICC 1
The entrance of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is seen in The Hague, Netherlands. Jerry Lampen, Reuters/FIle

MANILA -- The Philippines officially quit the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Sunday, becoming the second country to withdraw from the Hague-based tribunal.

The finality of Manila's departure is causing fears and doubts since the country pulled out from the ICC after it launched an examination into allegations of mass killings in the Duterte administration's drug war. 

That is why international human rights group Amnesty International is calling on the United Nations Human Rights Council to launch a probe into the spate of killings linked to the anti-drug crackdown. 

But the Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court insists the country is not yet off the hook and may still be held liable by the international tribunal.

"Definitely it will be very challenging for the ICC Office of the Prosecutor to do its investigation now that the effect of the withdrawal is there but let's also remind ourselves that even if the Philippines withdrew from the ICC, the Philippines still has what is called residual obligation to still fulfill its obligations under the ICC Rome Statute when it was still a state party," Gilbert Andres, co-legal council of the Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court (PCICC), explained.

The group, however, warned that the withdrawal from the ICC may worsen the culture of impunity in the country. Party-list group Gabriela also said the move could also spawn "nastier" rights abuses in the Philippines. 

International law expert, Priya Pillai said membership to the ICC is not only important in terms of legal recourse.

"For me, I think one of the things I see that is really valuable in the ICC not just as a legal remedy but in what it means to a national system... it's also on what it means for a national jurisdiction to walk better or function better," she said.

The PCICC underscores the dire need to back pedal the Philippines' withdrawal from the international body. The group is urging the Supreme Court to intervene.

"Assuming the Philippine Supreme Court will rule that our notice of withdrawal was actually ineffective, then there's actually no withdrawal to think about," Andres said.

Pillai explained a reversal of one country's departure from the ICC has already happened before in South Africa.

"The South African high court high court basically issued a decision saying the withdrawal was unconstitutional and had to go through parliamentary approval. At that point the government of SA then withdrew the withdrawal, so to speak... essentially retained status quo," she said.

The PCICC has appealed to Philippine officials to reconsider their plea and rethink the country's withdrawal from the Rome Statute.

"Human rights and crime-busting -- they are not anathema, they are not antagonistic towards each other... If we want really to have a crime-busting system here in the Philippines, we need to respect human rights," Andres said.