Manila warns ICC against being used for 'political agenda'

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 08 2017 12:10 PM | Updated as of Feb 08 2018 04:16 PM

MANILA - The Philippines has urged the International Criminal Court not to allow itself to be used for "political agenda," following calls for the tribunal to look into President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.

The ICC was envisioned as the "court of last resort" and has "complimentary, not primary" jurisdiction over crimes of international court, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a speech at the United Nations.

Roque delivered the statement on behalf of the Philippines during the 16th assembly of state parties to the Rome Statute, the international agreement that created the ICC.

"We urge the court to resist attempts by some sectors to treat the court as a venue to pursue political agenda to destabilize governments and undermine legitimate national authorities," Roque said.

Roque said there were attempts to "politicize and dilute the Court’s mandate which ultimately undermine national efforts to punish and prosecute crimes covered by the Statute."

Earlier this year, Jude Sabio, lawyer of confessed hitman Edgar Matobato, sued the President for crimes against humanity before the ICC.

Roque, the only Filipino lawyer to practice at the ICC, said the court’s "deference to genuine efforts at the national level to go after crimes must be upheld."

"The primary objective of the Rome Statue to complement national efforts in criminal justice and social reconciliation must not be minimized or set aside," he said.

Roque said Philippines would be constrained to reassess its commitment to the ICC and the Rome Statute if the principle of complementarity would be violated.

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. He had previously threatened to withdraw the Philippines from the ICC.

In his complaint, Sabio accused Duterte and 11 government and police officials of committing crimes against humanity over the spate of deaths under the administration's drug war.

The complaint cited testimonies from Matobato, another self-confessed Davao Death Squad 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 murders, reportedly carried out during his years as Davao City mayor for over 2 decades.