The International Criminal Court (ICC) cannot compel the Philippines to cooperate with its probe on alleged drug war killings, despite a ruling by the Supreme Court saying the Philippines remains obliged to cooperate even after withdrawing from the Rome Statute, the Palace said Thursday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque issued this statement after the Supreme Court said the Philippines has an obligation to cooperate with the ICC despite its withdrawal from the Rome Statute in 2019.
Roque said the lack of an enforcement mechanism meant the government cannot be compelled to cooperate.
The Philippines withdrew from the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, in March 2019.
A decision released by the SC on July 21 states: “Even if it has deposited the instrument of withdrawal, it shall not be discharged from any criminal proceedings. Whatever process was already initiated before the International Criminal Court obliges the state party to cooperate.”
However, Roque said the SC’s statement “does not have jurisprudential value.”
“That’s obiter dictum. In law, there’s the main issue that has to be resolved. And the main issue was, is Senate concurrence required to withdraw from the ICC? Because in becoming a member of the ICC, the Senate concurred. And the main decision was no,” Roque said.
Malacañang insisted that the Duterte government will still not cooperate with any probe to be conducted by the ICC.
Roque said the SC ruling dismissing petitions questioning the legality of the Philippines’ withdrawal as state party without Senate concurrence by stating such are moot and academic clearly presumes regularity.
“The main issue here is that the Senate concurrence is not needed in withdrawing from the ICC,” he said.
“No change in our policy. They won’t rule that the petition is moot and academic if there is a violation of law,” he added.
Earlier, Roque said pursuing the ICC probe would be an insult to all Filipinos as it implies that the country’s legal system is not working.
He cited the principle of complementarity in which the ICC can only investigate crimes against humanity if local courts are unable or unwilling to do so.
Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the human rights situation in the Philippines has improved under the administration of President Duterte, particularly in the fight against illegal drugs due to expanded cooperation with international institutions.
“We are making real progress in human rights; while protecting our society from the worst of scourges: drug trafficking that takes over states as in Central America; and drug addiction that destroys its willing victims,” Locsin said, during the presentation of the security, justice and peace Cabinet cluster, as part of the preparation for the State of the Nation (Sona) Address of the President on July 26.
Locsin said the broadening cooperation and alliances have paid off, citing the United Nations Joint Program (UNJP) with the Philippines as a partner in a three-year undertaking aimed to promote a human rights-based approach to combating terrorism and illegal drugs in the country.
The UNJP is in line with Human Rights Council Resolution 45/33, adopted in October 2020, and reaffirms Philippines’ commitment to actively engage with the international community in addressing the country’s human rights concerns.
“With the now finalized UN Joint Program, we strengthen national institutions to promote and protect human rights by technical assistance and capacity-building; even as we battle the worst of human rights abuses: drug trafficking and drug addiction,” the country’s top diplomat said.
Locsin said the country’s human rights program is rooted in Duterte’s directive for constructive and open engagement with the UN in a “non-politicized” manner.
“Nobody dictates to us how to protect our own people. But where we need it, we welcome help,” he said.
Meanwhile, Senator Leila De Lima said the decision of the Supreme Court on the unilateral withdrawal of President Rodrigo Duterte from the Rome Statute is yet another reminder of how he abused the Office of the President by bending foreign policy,
She surmised the reason for Duterte’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute was to evade an impending case against his policy of widespread extra judicial killings in his war on illegal drugs.
But De Lima said she took comfort in the fact that the Supreme Court echoed the pronouncement of the former ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda when it declared that the country’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute did not discharge the country from its obligations incurred while it was still a state party.
The decision, she said, implied that the Rome Statute was in full effect prior to the country’s withdrawal.
“Bottom line is that Duterte’s own Supreme Court maintains that he is still covered by… the Rome Statute in spite of his unilateral withdrawal of our country therefrom,” she said.
The opposition senator told Duterte to stop playing politics, exhibiting pathetic defiance, and instead start consulting with his lawyers and face the charges against him.
Another opposition senator Risa Hontiveros said she respects the decision of the Supreme Court to dismiss the case questioning the country’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute.
“I am glad that despite the dismissal of the petition, the Supreme Court nonetheless acknowledged that the President’s power of withdrawal from treaties is not without limitation, and that the President may not unilaterally withdraw from treaties on which the Senate imposed conditions for its concurrence,” she said.
Hontiveros said the Supreme Court has also pointed out that safeguards for human rights and protections against offenses addressed by the Rome Statute remain in place in the country.
“I have some bad news for human rights violators in the country: They are not off the hook. They have nothing to celebrate. Sooner or later, they will have to face justice for the heinous acts they have committed against the Filipino people,” Hontiveros said.