Philippine leader urges nations to exit worldwide court

Lula Sharp
March 21, 2018

A few days after the President himself announced his decision to withdraw the Philippines from the International Criminal Court (ICC), he said that he will convince other signatory countries to follow his steps and "get out".

There is no investigation against Duterte, though ICC prosecutors are conducting a "preliminary examination", or review, of his government's war on drugs, in which thousands of alleged dealers have been killed.

Last week, Duterte announced the Philippines would be withdrawing from the ICC, the world's only permanent war crimes court, following what he called "outrageous" comments by United Nations officials and violation of due process.

Sought for a comment on President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of withdrawal from the ICC, the court told that it has yet to receive notification from the United Nations secretary-general that the withdrawal has taken place.

In a radio interview, Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the Senate had no say on the matter, as the chamber's concurrence on the withdrawal was not required.

Duterte's action came under fire from human rights groups, who said the president was trying to evade accountability by backing out of the ICC.

Mr. Cayetano said the country's decision to pull out of the Rome Statute stemmed from the "well-orchestrated campaign to mislead the global community" regarding human rights issues hounding President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

He said the principle of complementarity states that the ICC would only exercise jurisdiction if the State party of the accused is unable or unwilling to prosecute the crime.

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"They made the mistake of letting themselves be used by those who were not happy with the victory of President Duterte in the 2016 elections, who had their own candidates".

Commission on Human Rights chief Chito Gascon said the Philippines has historically been at the forefront of the fight for global justice, but that Duterte's decision "constitutes a reversal that will be viewed as encouraging impunity to continue".

Despite the withdrawal, the mission pointed out Manila is committed to fight against impunity as there is an existing national legislation punishing atrocity crimes in the Philippines.

He then challenged the ICC to drop the charges filed against Duterte, otherwise other state parties may doubt their decision to resume their membership in the worldwide court.

He said that in the case of the Philippines, Duterte has identified the proliferation of illegal drugs and its link to other forms of criminality as a serious threat to people that had to be immediately addressed.

In a recent television interview, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said the worldwide court violated its complementarity rule, "the very fundamental basis by which we gave our consent to be part of the ICC", when it began the preliminary examination against the administration's campaign against illegal drugs. "These are dealt with by independent and well-functioning organs and agencies of our State".

In his statement explaining Manila's decision to pull out of the Rome Statute, Cayetano pointed to the "well-orchestrated" campaign to mislead the global community, to crucify the President and the Philippines by distorting the human rights situation in the country.

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