With pullout from ICC, PH still under Rome Statute jurisdiction

Published March 15, 2018, 9:09 AM

by Patrick Garcia


By Roy Mabasa

The Philippines’ withdrawal from the International Criminal Court does not take the country out of the jurisdiction of the Rome Statute.

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano gestures as he gave a previlege speech at the Session Hall in Senate of the Philippines in Pasay City on Monday. (JOHN JEROME GANZON)

This was emphasized by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano as he admitted that the ICC can still push through with its preliminary examination of allegations of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines in the conduct of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.

The Rome Statute is the treaty that established the International Criminal Court. It was adopted at a diplomatic conference in Rome on July 17, 1998 and it entered into force on July 1, 2002.

“Yes you are still liable even when you withdraw,” Secretary Cayetano said in a television interview Wednesday night.

The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) earlier announced that it is opening a preliminary examination on alleged acts associated to the campaign against illegal drugs by the Duterte administration.

The move was in recognition of the case filed last year by lawyer Jude Sabio which was based on the Senate testimony of self-confessed former Davao death squad member Edgar Matobato.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano filed a supplemental complaint supporting Sabio’s accusations.

The Office of the Prosecutor argued that in conducting a preliminary examination it is merely exercising its mandate to determine whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into a situation pursuant to criteria in the Rome Statute, namely, jurisdiction, admissibility and the interests of justice.

It also clarified that a preliminary examination is not an investigation of any individual, nor is it a judgment or sanction against the Philippines, which is a State Party to the Rome Statute in good standing.

According also to the Office of the Prosecutor, when “it appears” from the communications it has received and other information it has gathered that an act falls within the ICC’s jurisdiction, it will open a preliminary examination. The threshold, therefore, for its decision to open a preliminary examination is very low and is not based on a thorough examination of the facts and of all sides, which is precisely why it initiates a preliminary examination.

According to Cayetano the Philippine government’s decision to withdraw its membership from the ICC is “a principled stand” since nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and politicians supposedly use human rights for political ends.

“Well the political NGOs and politicians have taken over human rights unlike in the past it was simply the principle of human rights,” he said. “Now it is being used in politics.”

Cayetano pointed out that during the time of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the military did not want the Philippines to ratify the Rome Statute of the ICC. This was because the Philippines has an “internal conflict” that might “compromise” cops and soldiers.

The Philippines ratified the Rome Statute during the time of then president Benigno Aquino III. One of those who pushed for this ratification was human rights lawyer Harry Roque, now Duterte’s spokesman.

“Now the President sees that there is internal conflict, like what happened in Marawi, et cetera. And that’s the same reason that the US, China, Russia did not sign or did not ratify it. The US signed but did not ratify it,” Cayetano said.

President Rodrigo Duterte announced earlier on Wednesday that the Philippines will withdraw from the ICC “effective immediately.”