By Ellson Quismorio
The Philippine government’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) does not make Filipinos “less devoted” to the protection of human rights, Surigao del Sur 2nd district Rep. Johnny Pimentel reckoned on Sunday.
Specifically, Pimentel said that the country’s exit from the Rome Statute which ratified the ICC places it in the same boat as the United States (US), which remains the “global champion of human rights.”
“In spite of its reputation as the global champion of human rights, America has spurned the ICC. So we are now in a similar situation. The only difference is that while the US was never a party to the Rome Statute, we are a party to the treaty who has decided to quit,” noted the solon, who chairs the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability.
“Our departure from the ICC does not make us less devoted to the protection of human rights, in the same manner that America’s snub of the tribunal does not make that country less dedicated to human rights,” Pimentel explained.
The US has opted not to ratify the Rome Statute out of concern that it might be put in a quandary once American soldiers and their commanders are investigated, prosecuted and put on trial before the ICC for purported war crimes committed while operating in foreign lands, according to Pimentel.
“This is why you will never hear the White House or the US State Department passing judgment on our withdrawal from the ICC.”
President Rodrigo Duterte, who has waged a brutal war on illegal drugs, is under investigation by the ICC for supposed crimes against humanity in connection with the alleged extrajudicial killings of thousands of drug suspects.
Duterte announced last weeks that he would have the Philippines withdraw its ratification of the ICC after the Prague-based United Nations (UN) body announced that it had begun preliminary examination of his case.
Pimentel said Duterte enjoys the prerogative to pull the Philippines out of the ICC. “As chief executive, the President is also our lead foreign policy architect. He is in fact our chief diplomat.”
The Philippines’ withdrawal from the ICC would reduce to 122 the number of countries that are parties to the Rome treaty and members of the permanent international tribunal founded in 2002 “to bring to justice the perpetrators of the worst crimes known to humankind – war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.”
Shortly after Duterte announced his decision to leave the ICC, Philippine Ambassador to the UN Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Friday submitted Manila’s letter of withdrawal from the Rome Statute.
In its letter dated March 15, the Philippines said that its decision to withdraw from the treaty was a “principled stand against those who politicize and weaponize human rights.”
Under Article 127 of the Rome Statute, a state party may withdraw from the treaty through a written notification addressed to the UN secretary-general. The withdrawal will take effect a year after the date of receipt of the notification.
Other states that have not ratified and have not become parties to the Rome Statute include China, India, Indonesia, Israel and Sudan.