The Palace on Tuesday apologized to the family of the late Senator Miriam Santiago for “hurting” their feelings by saying that the election of the former lawmaker as a judge in the International Criminal Court was void.
In a Palace press briefing, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo sent his apologies to Linn Defensor Evangelista, younger sister of the late lawmaker, after the sibling called out his previous statement saying Santiago’s election was “void.” However, the Palace official explained why he thinks the concern and the hurt were “misplaced.”
“I will apologize for hurting her feelings,” Panelo said in a Palace press briefing. “But I think she misunderstood what I said yesterday.”
“What I said, if the theory is that we never were under the jurisdiction of the ICC, it goes without saying, as logic, then any appointment to the International Court would be void if that is the theory,” he added.
But Santiago’s sibling didn’t buy Panelo’s reasoning.
In a facebook post, Evangelista slammed Panelo, saying his remarks as “wrong, immoral, and extremely disrespectful.”
“To say that the Philippine membership in the ICC is not valid and that Miriam was not a valid ICC judge is irresponsible, offensive and full of malice. At a minimum, this person (I refuse to say his name in the same posting where Miriam’s name is mentioned) should withdraw this pronouncement and apologize!” Evangelista said.
“I am beyond upset; this is a cowardly attack and an evil attempt to undermine that which is true,” he added.
Panelo argued that the Philippines never became an official member-state of the ICC as there was never a publication of the ratification of the Rome Statute, the treaty which created the ICC, in a newspaper of general circulation or the Official Gazette.
Thus, according to Panelo, Santiago’s election was void from the start.
“That is the logical consequence of a theory – that we had never been under the jurisdiction of the ICC,” he said.
“And incidentally, she never assumed the position,” he added.
Panelo then stood by his view, saying his reasoning was not “offensive and disrespectful,” but it was just “misunderstood.”
“It’s not offensive. I think it was misunderstood… But I apologize because she was hurt,” he said.
“But let me say that she was very much qualified to be a justice. She had the credentials,” he added.
Santiago was the first Filipino and first Asian from a developing country to be elected as ICC judge in 2011.
She, however, stepped down from the post in 2014 due to health complications. Two years later in September 2016, Santiago passed away following a long battle with lung cancer.
Meanwhile, Malacañang and even President Rodrigo Duterte have maintained that the Philippines was never an official member-state of the international tribunal, ignoring the ICC’s plans to conduct an investigation of the government’s controversial war on drugs.
The Philippines officially pulled out of the ICC on March 17.