PH withdrawal from ICC can’t stop the UN agency from investigating Duterte’s ‘war-on-drugs’

Published March 18, 2019, 8:55 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Roy Mabasa

A leading legal luminary in the Philippines on Monday expressed her view that the International Criminal Court (ICC) may continue its investigation on President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war-on-drugs” campaign even if the country has officially withdrawn its membership from the Hague-based tribunal.

Elizabeth Aguiling-Pangalangan (YOUTUBE / MANILA BULLETIN)
Elizabeth Aguiling-Pangalangan (YOUTUBE / MANILA BULLETIN)

“On matters that are already under examination while we were members, it continues,” Professor Elizabeth Pangalangan, president of the Philippine Society of International Law (PSIL) told reporters at the sidelines of the kick-off ceremony for the Seventh Biennial Conference of the Asian Society of International Law at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Pangalangan, who also teaches at the College of Law of the University of the Philippines, said she did not believe that the Philippines should have withdrawn from the ICC, calling the decision “shortsighted.”

She noted that the Philippines went through a “difficult” process before it was able to ascend to the Rome Statute, the treaty that led to the creation of the ICC in July 1998.

“I don’t believe that it should be withdrawn. But again, that is my own opinion,” she said.

Pangalangan noted that Manila acceded to the Rome Statute “in order to provide protection for Filipinos in case of atrocities.” The Philippine Senate ratified the treaty only in 2011, after years of intense lobbying from various groups.

In March 2018, the Philippines informed the United Nations of its decision to withdraw its membership from the ICC after the body began its preliminary probe on Duterte’s controversial drug war that left more than 5,000 people killed.

“This was rather shortsighted I would say because for now, maybe we think that it should not be used. But how about in the future?” Pangalangan asked.

Although the Philippines can again accede the ICC in the future, Pangalangan, however, said the Senate will have to go through the tedious process of ratifying the treaty all over again.

“And then now that we’d withdrawn and it has become effective, then we may sign it in the future. But it has to go through ratification again. So, mahirap (it’s difficult),” she said.

The lady professor is married to former UP College of Law Dean and now ICC Judge Raul Pangalangan. He was named as a judge to the international body in June 2015 with a secured term of office until 2021.

Last year, the ICC clarified that Pangalangan will stay on as judge of the Court if and when the Philippine withdrawal would take effect. The Philippine membership withdrawal took effect on March 17, 2019, a year after it filed a notice before the UN.