PH withdrawal from ICC brings case closer to a criminal investigation, lawyer says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 15) — The lawyer who filed a communication with the International Criminal Court (ICC) to look into the country’s drug war said the move to pull out from the international tribunal just speeds up the case.

Atty. Jude Sabio told CNN Philippines’ News Night on Thursday that President Rodrigo Duterte’s “open hostility” toward the United Nations (UN) and the ICC means the principle of complementarity will work on the case.

“This will speed up the criminal investigation because what Duterte is doing has foreclosed any real possibility of investigation by the UN, and even by this government,” Sabio said.

The ICC is an intergovernmental organization that investigates cases of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes of aggression.

It was meant to be a court of last resort when local courts of its state parties are incapable or unwilling to act on such matters.

The ICC earlier announced it would begin preliminary examination on the administration's controversial war on drugs, in response to a communication filed by Sabio in April 2017.

“I think that the criminal investigation will commence in six months, or within the year. The preliminary examination was done in record speed. It was done in nine months,” Sabio said.

He added the country’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute will have no legal effect on the jurisdiction of the ICC, citing the treaty’s provisions on withdrawal.

“It will only mean that it is an attempt, an ingenious ploy or a subtle subterfuge to evade the investigation by the ICC, or ultimately, to evade liability,” Sabio said.

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, however, insisted Duterte is not afraid of the ICC’s investigation.

“As far as the President is concerned, tama na yan. Masyado nang... alam mo tama ang Presidente. Why are you subjecting me with all this? When in the first place wala naman kayong jurisdiction sa akin?” Panelo said.

He also claimed the Philippines’ withdrawal from the ICC is effective immediately, and does not need the Senate’s concurrence.

Article 127 of the Rome Statute states that “the withdrawal shall take effect one year after the date of receipt of the notification, unless the notification specifies a later date."