MANILA – Malacañang on Tuesday said the Philippines might consider leaving the International Criminal Court (ICC) if it will conduct an investigation into a complaint filed before it even though there is no evidence the Philippines has shown unwillingness or inability to exercise jurisdiction.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr., the only Filipino lawyer allowed to practice at the ICC, said this ahead of his scheduled speech at the Assembly of State Parties on December 7 in New York.
The Assembly of State Parties is the ICC’s management oversight and legislative body and is composed of representatives of States which have ratified or acceded to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the international tribunal.
Stressing the principle of complementarity, Roque said “the court (ICC) cannot exercise jurisdiction unless a specific act complained about has been acted upon by domestic institutions.”
“We agreed to be a member of the ICC because of the principle of complementarity,” Roque said in a news conference in Malacañang.
“[To] violate the principle of complementarity would be to violate the very basis of our consent to be bound by the Rome Statute and if this will happen, then there may be a possibility that the Philippines, like the three other African states, may withdraw from the Rome Statute of the ICC,” he added, referring to South Africa, Gambia and Burundi.
President Rodrigo Duterte himself had previously threatened to withdraw the Philippines from the ICC.
Roque, who is also Duterte’s adviser on human rights, said although his speech is not yet final, he will likely bring up the Philippines’ stand on the issue of the ICC intervening in domestic affairs, even as there are calls for the ICC to prosecute Duterte over his war on drugs.
Earlier this year, Jude Sabio, lawyer of confessed hitman Edgar Matobato, sued the President for crimes against humanity at the international court.
Created in 1998 through the United Nations treaty called the Rome Statute, the ICC has jurisdiction over 124 of its members, including the Philippines, which became a signatory 17 years ago.
Duterte is the first Philippine President to face a complaint before the international tribunal.
In his complaint, Sabio accused Duterte and 11 government and police officials of committing crimes against humanity for the spate of deaths under the administration's drug war.
The complaint cited testimonies from Matobato, another self-confessed DDS assassin Arthur Lascañas, and various reports from human rights groups and media organizations.
Matobato and Lascañas earlier tagged the President in so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS) murders, reportedly carried out during his years as Davao City mayor for over 2 decades.