Duterte: PH to withdraw from ICC 'effective immediately'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 14) — President Rodrigo Duterte said the country will withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) 'effective immediately.'

In an unsigned statement, the President said attacks against him and his administration which were "engineered by the officials of the United Nations," as well as the attempt by the ICC special prosecutor to put him under jurisdiction prompted him to pull the country out from the international tribunal.

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo confirmed the statement came from the President on Thursday.

The President slammed efforts to use the ICC "as a political tool against the Philippines."

"Given that the ICC shows a propensity for failing to give due respect to the State Parties of the Rome Statute and that there is clear bias on the part of the UN against the Philippines, the Philippines may very well consider withdrawing from the Rome Statute," Duterte said in his statement.

The President also hit UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard and UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Zed Ra'ad al-Hussein for their "international bias" against the Philippines' human rights situation. He added  the preliminary examination of ICC prosecutor Fatou Besouda against the country's war on drugs "maliciously created" implication of culpability.

He said the actions done by the UN and ICC are in violation of due process and constitutional presumption of innocence.

In withdrawing from the ICC, Duterte also said that the Rome Statute, the ICC's founding document to which the Philippines is a signatory, is neither effective nor enforceable in the country since it has not been published in the Official Gazette as instructed by the New Civil Code.

"An international law cannot supplant, prevail over, or diminish a domestic law," he said.

But even if the ICC can have jurisdiction, Duterte said the grounds of the complaint filed against him are not grounds in which the international court can have the jurisdiction.

"The acts allegedly committed by me are neither genocide at war crimes. Neither is it a crime of aggression or a crime against humanity The deaths °cuffing in the process of legitimate police operation lacked the intent to kill. The self-defense employed by the police officers when their lives became endangered by the violent resistance of the suspects is a justifying circumstance under our criminal law hence they do not incur criminal liability," he said.

On Wednesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte has instructed Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to issue the notice of withdrawal, but the country has yet to file this.

The Philippines signed the Rome Statute of the ICC in 2000 and ratified it in 2011, becoming its 117th State Party.

Earlier, the ICC clarified the preliminary examination is not an investigation but a process to see if there is basis to proceed with an investigation.

READ: Int'l Criminal Court to begin preliminary examination on PH killings

The ICC is looking into the drug war after Jude Sabio filed a communication in April 2017. Sabio is the lawyer of self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato, who said he killed people in Davao City upon the orders of then-Mayor Duterte.

Sabio accused Duterte of "repeatedly, unchangingly, and continuously" committing mass murder. He said 1,400 individuals were killed by the so-called Davao Death Squad under the leadership of then Mayor Duterte, and 7,000 individuals were killed in the government's war on drugs since Duterte took office.

The President's statement is also a complete turnaround from an earlier statement, when he said he welcomed the ICC probe and that he would speak to an ICC representative one-on-one.

The ICC, an intergovernmental organization that investigates cases of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes of aggression, was established by the Rome Statute, which was enforced in 2002.

It currently has eight situations under preliminary examination, including alleged crimes in Afghanistan, Colombia, and Iraq.

'We can withdraw from the ICC'

Contrary to claims, Duterte said the country can immediately withdraw from the Rome Statute in less than a year as there is "fraud" in the agreement both parties entered into.

"The Philippines in ratifying the Rome Statute was made to believe that the principle of complementanty shall be observed, that the principle of due process and the presumption of innocence as mandated by our Constitution and the Rome Statute shall prevail: and that the legal requirement of publication to make the Rome Statute enforceable shall be maintained," he said.

According to Article 127 of the Rome Statute, "a state may, by written notification addressed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, withdraw from this Statute. The withdrawal shall take effect one year after the date of receipt of the notification, unless the notification specifies a later date."

It added a state party's withdrawal should not affect its cooperation with the Court on criminal investigations and proceedings initiated prior to the effectivity of the state's withdrawal.

The withdrawal should also not "prejudice in any way the continued consideration of any matter which was already under consideration by the Court prior to the date on which the withdrawal became effective.

In a statement, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay said Duterte has no authority to withdraw from the ICC on his own.

"The ICC was ratified by the Senate. Withdrawal, as a constitutional matter, requires a similar concurrence," he said.

Integrated Bar of the Philippines president Ade Fajardo likewise said the withdrawal "should undergo the same scrutiny, diligent study, and debate that the country's prior decision of entering into the Rome Statute went through."