By Mario Casayuran
The six-member minority group in the 24-man Senate filed before the Supreme Court on Tuesday a petition for certiorari and mandamus against six President Duterte’s men over the Philippine government’s unilateral withdrawal from the Rome Statute.
The withdrawal by President Duterte from the Rome Statute triggered international and local criticisms following cries for Duterte to be investigated by the International Criminal Court for the alleged extra-judicial killings (EJKs) arising from his bloody anti-illegal drugs campaign that began when he took over Malacanang in July 2016.
While the anti-Duterte sector claims that the number of EJK casualties has risen to 20,000, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said that casualties in the anti-illegal drug campaign are about 4,000.
Named respondents are Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano; Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea; Salvador S. Panelo, President Duterte’s legal counsel; and Teodoro L. Locsin Jr., Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
The petition was filed by Senator Francis Pangilinan, president of the opposition Liberal Party (LP); and Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon, a former Justice Secretary.
The other petitioners are Senators Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Leila M. de Lima, Risa Hontiveros and Antonio F. Trillanes IV.
The petitioners said the case presents a ‘’singular constitutional question that may have grave consequences to the Filipino nation.’’
The UN Secretary-General received notification from the Philippine government last May 17, 2018, on its decision to withdraw from the Rome Statute ‘’in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Statute.’’
The petitioners maintained that the withdrawal by the Philippine government was made only by the Executive branch, without the participation of the Senate.
‘’If the Executive can unilaterally withdraw from any treaty or international agreement, he is in a position to abrogate some of the basic norms in our legal system,’’ they pointed out.
‘’Thus, the Executive can unilaterally withdraw from the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention on the Law on the Sea (UNCLOS), without any checking mechanism from Congress. This would be an undemocratic concentration of power in the Executive that could not have been contemplated by the Constitution,’’ they added.
The petitioners asked the Supreme Court to apply the Constitution by declaring that the withdrawal from the Rome Statute requires the concurrence of at least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate.
‘’It is incumbent upon the Honorable Court to exercise this constitutional mandate to avoid a situation, now and in the future, where the Executive may spend some of the most basic norms of our legal system at his or her own behest,’’ they added.
The petition seeks to declare the withdrawal from the Rome Statute as ‘’invalid or ineffective’’ without the concurrence of at least two-thirds of all members of the Senate.
It also asked the Court to compel the Executive, through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Philippine Permanent Mission to the UN, to notify the UN Secretary-General that it is cancelling, revoking and withdrawing its Instrument of Withdrawal received by the UN Secretary-General on March 17, 2018, given that such Instrument of Withdrawal is not consistent with the Constitution.
Pro-Duterte groups maintained that the Senate can only ratify an international agreement or treaty submitted by the Executive branch.
They maintained that there is no constitutional provision that empowers the Senate to give its consent by at least two-thirds of all Senate members to any withdrawal from any treaty or international agreement by the Executive branch.