By Roy Mabasa
The process for the Philippines’ formal withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) has begun.
On Thursday at 6:07 p.m. New York time (Friday, 6:07 a.m. Manila time), the Philippine government officially served notice to the United Nations (UN) through a one-page note verbale that it has decided to opt out of the Rome Statute.
The note verbal was handed over to Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, the Chef de Cabinet of UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres, by Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN Teodoro Locsin, Jr.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said on Thursday that with the decision to withdraw the Philippines’ ratification of the Rome Statute, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has lost its strongest ally in Asia.
In a Palace briefing, Roque said ICC special prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has violated the principle of complementarity that prompted Duterte to withdraw from the ICC.
“Because of the violation committed by the prosecutor, the ICC has lost its strongest ally in Asia continent. So to the ICC, to the Assembly of State Parties, they only have to thank the prosecutor for the end of our dream to achieve universal ratification for the ICC,” Roque said.
“The action of the prosecutor was an insult because she was condemning our courts that were supposedly inutile because the ICC will only act if local procedures, courts are inutile in dealing with impunity,” Roque said in Filipino.
Roque insisted that the ICC was not the court of first instance but the court of last resort.
“What happened is the courts in the Philippines were supposedly not working so a preliminary examination was started. That is unacceptable because it violated the consent we gave to become a member of the ICC,” he added.
In the note verbal, the Philippines gave its assurance to the international community that it continues to be guided by the rule of law embodied in the Constitution and its long-standing tradition of upholding human rights.
“The government affirms its commitment to fight against impunity for atrocity crimes, notwithstanding its withdrawal from the Rome Statute, especially since the Philippines has a national legislation punishing atrocity crimes,” the note said.
“The government remains resolute in effecting its principal responsibility to ensure the long-term safety of the nation in order to promote inclusive national development and secure a decent and dignified life for all.”
The Rome Statute is the treaty that established the ICC, the first permanent international court set up to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. It was adopted at a diplomatic conference in Rome on July 17, 1998 and it entered into force on July 1, 2002.
President Joseph Estrada signed the treaty in December, 2000, but President Gloria MacapagalArroyo refused to forward it to the Senate for ratification.
In March, 2011, the Aquino administration ratified and endorsed the Rome Statute to the Senate.
Five months later, the Senate passed the resolution conveying its concurrence by a vote of 17 affirmative votes and one negative.
On Aug.30, 2011, the Philippines finally acceded to the Rome Statute when it deposed its instrument of ratification at the UN headquarters in New York.
According to Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, the decision of the Duterte administration to pull out of the Court is “a principled stand against those who politicize and weaponize human rights.”
Cayetano pointed to the well-orchestrated campaign to mislead the international community to crucify President Duterte and the Philippines by distorting the human rights situation in the country.
“This campaign against President Duterte and the Philippines is being effectively carried out by elements who seek to undermine our government and who have successfully infiltrated the human rights community and weaponized human rights protection mechanisms to advance their goal of overthrowing our democratically installed government,” Cayetano said in a statement issued shortly after arriving in Sydney Friday morning where he will represent President Duterte in the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit. (With reports from Genalyn D. Kabiling and PNA)