Palace insists PH never became a member of ICC, says tribunal ‘non-existent’

By Genalyn Kabiling

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is “non-existent” and its actions “a futile exercise” since the Philippines never became a member in the first place, Malacañang insisted on Sunday.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo warned that the ICC would only interfere with the country’s sovereignty if it pursues any investigation on President Duterte’s alleged abuses in the drug war.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)

“The President’s staunchest critics and vocal detractors are at it again lambasting the supposed withdrawal of the Philippines from the Rome Statute and necessarily from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC),” Panelo said.

“The Philippines cannot leave that which has never joined in the first place. Our position on the matter remains clear, unequivocal and inflexible: The Philippines never became a State Party to the Rome Statute which created the ICC. As far as we are concerned, this tribunal is non-existent and its actions a futile exercise,” he added.

Panelo issued the remarks on the day the country’s pullout from the international treaty that created the ICC took effect.

Last year, President Duterte announced the country was withdrawing from the ICC after complaining about the “baseless” and “outrageous” attacks against him, violations of due process, among others.

Duterte has argued the ICC could not acquire jurisdiction over him for a number of reasons, including the lack of treaty publication on the Official Gazette, the acts he has been accused of were not crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC, and presidential immunity from lawsuits.

The ICC earlier initiated a preliminary examination into the alleged crimes against humanity committed in Duterte’s war on drugs.

Panelo warned against the “intrusion” of the ICC into national sovereignty.

“Should the ICC proceed with its undertakings relative to the Philippines and violate the provisions of the instrument which created it in the process, it can only mean that it is bent on interfering with the sovereignty of our Republic,” he said.

He said such intrusion would only validate the theory of countries that pulled out that the “ICC continues to exercise unaccountable prosecutorial powers and has become a tool for political prosecution thereby a threat to the national sovereignty of countries.”

He maintained that there was no basis for the ICC to continue whatever it started against the President or the Philippines.

Even if the Philippines was a member of ICC, Panelo said under the principle of complementarity, the court could only have jurisdiction if the local courts were unable or unwilling to exercise jurisdiction.

He also argued that the country has a “robust judicial system,” saying any person seeking redress for grievance can file a complaint before local courts instead of the ICC.

“The Philippines, particularly its Judiciary, cannot be considered unwilling or unable to prosecute as all the courts are functioning, so are administrative bodies tasked to investigate complaints filed by any person for the purpose of determining the existence of a probable cause,” he said.

“We have a robust judicial system and it soundly operates. The conviction by the Caloocan court of three policemen for the killing of Kian delos Santos is eloquent proof of this, which the State Department of the United States acknowledges in its recent human rights report,” he said.

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