Former Senator Leila de Lima on Friday, July 1 said the new administration of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. should restore the Philippines’ membership in the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Then President Duterte had decided to end the country’s membership in the ICC in March 2018, unilaterally withdrawing from the Rome Statute, the treaty creating the international tribunal.
De Lima, a known social justice and human rights champion here and abroad, and who is still detained over illegal drug charges, maintained that the country’s membership in the ICC will strengthen its defense against human rights abuses and impunity, and will bring positive impact to the country’s image.
“Apart from cooperating with the ICC’s probe into the Philippines’ situation relative to the Duterte regime’s drug war killings, one concrete way to honor the ICC as it marks its 20th anniversary is for the new government to restore its ICC membership,” de Lima said.
“Restoring the country’s membership in the ICC will not only bring positive impact to the country’s image, but it will also strengthen our defense against possible future acts of aggression by foreign countries and protect people from crimes against humanity committed by state forces,” she added.
As the court of last resort, De Lima noted the ICC can exercise jurisdiction if States are unable or unwilling to investigate crimes.
It also marks its 20th anniversary as one of the permanent pillars of the international legal system today, July 1. The ICC called on states worldwide to renew their support, including arresting suspects and freezing assets of perpetrators of the most serious crimes.
The Hague-based ICC launched in 2018 a preliminary examination into the killings and human rights violations under Duterte’s drug war, which prompted the former president to unilaterally withdraw the country’s membership from the Rome Statute that same year, which took effect a year later, on March 17, 2019.
However, the said withdrawal did not affect the ICC’s cognizance of the case.
De Lima was one of the petitioners in the Supreme Court (SC) case, assailing the constitutionality of Duterte’s unilateral presidential action.
In May 16, 2018, De Lima, and her co-petitioners, namely, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, then Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon and then Senators Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV, Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV and Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, questioned the ICC withdrawal before the SC.
The opposition lawmakers argued that the Philippines’ withdrawal from the Rome Statute requires concurrence of at least two-third of the members of the Senate.
But the SC dismissed the petitions filed against Duterte’s decision to pull out of ICC sans the Senate’s concurrence for being “moot and academic.”
De Lima maintained that the Philippine’s membership in the ICC and continued status as a State-Party to the Rome Statute is crucial to ensure there would be accountability for individuals responsible for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity when the country’s own courts are unable to do so.
“Our membership means a solid protection for all the Filipinos and is vital in upholding human rights of all persons, and the holding of public officials accountable to their abuses against the people they ought to serve,” she said.