OPPOSITION senators on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to invalidate the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to withdraw membership in the International Criminal Court, saying the act did not have the concurrence of the Senate.
Opposition Senators Francis Pangilinan, Franklin Drilon, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Leila de Lima, Risa Hontiveros and Antonio Trillanes IV asked the Court to compel the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Philippine Permanent Mission to the United Nations to notify the UN secretary-general that the Philippines is revoking its notice of withdrawal.
The note, sent in March, informed the UN of “the Philippines’ principled stand against those who politicize and weaponize human rights, even as its independent and well-functioning organs and agencies continue to exercise jurisdiction over complaints, issues, problems and concerns arising from its efforts to protect the people.”
The opposition senators said the Office of the President and the DFA gravely abused their discretion by withdrawing the country’s membership in the ICC without the concurrence of at least two-thirds of the Senate under Article VII, Section 21 of the Constitution.
The petitioners argued that the Rome Statute creating the ICC is a treaty validly entered into by the Philippines, which has the same status as a law enacted by Congress.
As a law, the withdrawal from the Rome Statute would require the approval of Congress, they said.
“The executive cannot abrogate or repeal a law. In the same vein, the executive cannot unilaterally withdraw from a treaty or international agreement because such withdrawal is equivalent to a repeal of a law,” the petitioners said.
In withdrawing the country’s membership in the ICC, the petitioners sadid the respondents usurped legislative powers, which is punishable under the Revised Penal Code.
Besides, the petitioners cited the case of South Africa which had notified the ICC of its intention to withdraw from the treaty.
The move was challenged by the opposition South Africa before their Supreme Court, which eventually ruled that President Jacob Zuma and his Cabinet’s ICC notification of withdrawal was premature, procedurally irrational and that the government could not make the decision without the approval of Parliament.
“Given that the instrument of withdrawal received by the secretary-general of the United Nations on March 17, 2018 is inconsistent with the Philippine Constitution, the honorable Court must order the executive department to carry out its cancellation, revocation or withdrawal, similar to the case of South Africa,” the lawmakers said.
“This is necessary to implement the constitutional requirement that a treaty withdrawal needs the concurrence of at least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate,” they said.
President Duterte announced on March 14, 2018 the Philippines’ withdrawal of its ratification of the Rome Statute, a United Nations treaty creating the ICC.
Duterte cited “baseless, unprecedented and outrageous attacks” against him and his administration as the reason for his withdrawal as a state party.
This came after ICC special prosecutor Fatou Bensouda started a preliminary examination on the alleged human rights violations amid the Duterte administration’s intensified war on drugs.
Duterte defended his decision to take back the Philippines’ ratification of the Rome Statute, noting that the treaty is not a law since it was not published in the Official Gazette when the Philippines ratified it in August 2011, during the time of former President Benigno Aquino III.