Sotto believes withdrawal from ICC won’t do any harm to PH

Published March 18, 2019, 6:57 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senate President Vicente Sotto III believes that the Philippines’ withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) will do no harm, and even relieve the country from “inconveniences” supposedly caused by the high tribunal.

Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III gestures after elected as a newly Senate President at Senate Building in Pasay city, May 21,2018.(Czar Dancel)
Senate President Vicente Sotto III

Sotto said he did not agree that the country’s withdrawal from the ICC will cause negative implications as groups and critics of President Duterte have raised.

“Wala (None). I don’t think there is,” Sotto told reporters in an interview after the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Senate building in Taguig City Monday.

“In so many years of the Philippines, from the establishment of the Philippines as a republic, from 1945-’46, up to the present, meron na bang magandang nangyari? Na involved ang ICC? Meron na bang pangyayari na nakinabang ang Pilipinas? Wala. As a matter of fact, ngayon parang pineperhuwisyo pa tayo as far as the media is concerned,” he followed.

(In so many years of the Philippines, from the establishment of the Philippines as a republic, from 1945-’46, up to the present, have there been developments involving the ICC? Has the Philippines benefitted from any of it? None. As a matter of fact, it seems now that ICC is causing us inconvenience as far as the media as concerned.)

The Senate chief cited that the recent position taken by the United States, which “is also not inclined to support the ICC,” referring to its recent move barring the ICC investigators from entering the country. The Hague-based tribunal is currently probing war crimes possibly committed by US and its allies in Afghanistan.

Sotto said the figures being reported to the ICC about the supposed extrajudicial killings in Duterte’s war on drugs were also “muddled.” He maintained that a “very small percentage was killed in the (anti-drug) police operations.”

It has been a year after President Duterte decided to revoke the Philippines’ 2011 ratification of the Rome Statute, which created the ICC. While Duterte had wanted it to be effective “immediately”, the treaty states that withdrawal from the ICC will take effect one year after the United Nations receives the state party’s written notification on the action.

In February 2017, Sotto, then majority leader, along with 13 other senators, signed Senate Resolution No. 289, which expresses “the sense of the Senate that termination of, or withdrawal from, treaties and international agreements, concurred in by the Senate, shall be valid and effective only upon concurrence by the Senate.”

Sotto, on Monday, said the Senate has yet to approve the resolution, and until then, it is just “a piece of paper.”

Clarifying his position on the measure, he said the proposed resolution on the Senate’s concurrence on the withdrawal of Philippines membership in treaties does not include the ICC.

“Lately lang kami nagpasa ng resolution to that effect. In the past, wala namang ganun. So ‘yong mga napasa na treaty noong araw, iba pang mga agreements, walang kinalaman ‘yon doon,” Sotto said.

But Senate Minority Leader Frankllin Drilon, who authored Resolution 289, maintained that the pulling out from the ICC “must be [done] with the concurrence of the majority of the senators.”

“And in fact subsequent to all of this, every treaty ratified by the Senate contained a provision that any withdrawal must be with the concurrence of the Senate,” he added.

Drilon said that while the measure languishes in Senate, “this reflects the thinking of the senators.”

“Then it is up to the leadership of the Senate to calendar it for debates once more,” he said.