MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday insisted he cannot be “prosecuted internationally” as the treaty that created the International Criminal Court did not become part of Philippine law.
Duterte insists that the Rome Statute, which was ratified and endorsed by the Philippines in 2011, did not become part of domestic law because of the supposed failure of the previous government to publish it in the Official Gazette or any newspaper of general circulation.
The President said this was a violation of the constitutional right to due process since it means that the public was not informed about it.
“If you cannot prosecute me locally, how can you prosecute me internationally?” Duterte said during his speech at the Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte National Executive Coordinating Committee (MRRD-NECC) National Convention in Pasay City.
Duterte earlier said the Philippines was withdrawing from the ICC due to what he called "outrageous" attacks by United Nations officials and violations of due process by the ICC.
He made this decision after the ICC said it will start a preliminary examination into a complaint against Duterte and other officials over alleged extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.
In a 15-page statement dated March 13, Duterte said he was withdrawing from the ICC's founding treaty, the Rome Statute, because of "baseless, unprecedented and outrageous attacks" by U.N. officials, and ICC actions that he said failed to follow due process and presumption of innocence.
"There appears to be a concerted effort on the part of the U.N. special rapporteurs to paint me as a ruthless and heartless violator of human rights who allegedly caused thousands of extrajudicial killings," Duterte said.
The ICC's preliminary examination was premature, he added, and "effectively created the impression that I am to be charged ... for serious crimes falling under its jurisdiction."
'LOCAL PUBLICATION IMMATERIAL'
Debunking Duterte’s arguments, the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), in its letter to the President, noted that the Philippines had made it known that it understood very well what it would entail to become a state party to the statute.
It noted that the Philippines enacted Republic Act 9851 in December 2009, which set out the obligations of the Philippine government to penalize crimes similarly covered by the Rome Statute. This law was enacted prior to the Philippines becoming a member-state to the statute.
The ICJ also said facts such as the Philippines’ reaffirmation of its support for the Rome Statute as recently as Dec. 7, 2017 and its active campaign to have Filipino Raul Pangalangan elected as ICC judge “upend the claim that the Philippines was fraudulently induced to become a State Party to the Rome Statute.”
The ICJ urged the Philippines to cooperate with the ICC proceedings and “to unequivocally denounce and effectively address extrajudicial killings, whether of alleged criminals or of any person in the Philippines.”
The ICJ also said that from the perspective of international law, “it is immaterial whether or not the Rome Statute or the instrument of ratification is published in a particular manner or publication.”
It pointed out to Duterte that “the launch of a preliminary examination does not violate the principle of presumption of innocence or due process.”
It warned Duterte that the withdrawal “would not only be a setback to the protection of human rights in the country, but also send a message that the Philippines is turning its back on the rule of law and international justice.”