ICC can tap witnesses, NGOs in preliminary examination – IBP

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 19) — The International Criminal Court (ICC) can tap other resources for its preliminary examination into the war on drugs, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) said Monday.

"They can consult other sources of information — like NGOs (nongovernment organizations), other UN (United Nations) bodies, witnesses to be presented to them," IBP National president Abdiel Fajardo told CNN Philippines' The Source.

The ICC revealed on Saturday the Philippines' withdrawal from the court would not affect ongoing proceedings. The preliminary examination is set to determine whether the ICC has the jurisdiction to open a full-fledged investigation into the drug war.

Related: ICC review to proceed despite PH withdrawal

In its statement, the ICC said the Office of the Prosecutor "will also give consideration to all submissions and views conveyed to it during the course of each preliminary examination, strictly guided by the requirements of the Rome Statute."

Similarly, the ICC told CNN Philippines that while their office encourages participation with national authorities, "preliminary examinations can be undertaken without access to the territory."

However, the government insists the Rome Statute — which the Philippines ratified in 2011 — was never effective to begin with as it was supposedly not published in the Official Gazette.

In an interview on Friday, Presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo said the ICC probe was off, adding the investigators would not be granted visas to enter the country.

'Rome Statute still stands'

The IBP believes the Philippines is still bound to the Rome Statute, whether or not the treaty was published in the Official Gazette.

"One of the basic principles in international law is that you cannot invoke a local law to stop your commitment to the international community because of the multilateral treaty," said Fajardo.

Under the Civil Code of the Philippines, laws shall "take effect 15 days after publication either in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation in the Philippines."

In his announcement on March 14, President Rodrigo Duterte said the withdrawal was "effective immediately."

Related: Roque on withdrawal from ICC: It saddens me, but I agree with Duterte

However, Fajardo said under Article 127 of the Rome Statute, a withdrawal could only take effect one year after notification is received by the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

"It's very clear there that the withdrawal does not take effect immediately. And we signed the treaty with open eyes... We have to take the Rome Statute in its complete form," he said.

The IBP previously said the withdrawal from the Rome Statute should "undergo the same scrutiny, diligent study, and debate" as when it entered the treaty.

However, Panelo said he and the President believe the Senate need not review the withdrawal from the ICC.

Fajardo also rebutted Duterte's claim that the ICC was sponsored by the European Union (EU).

Related: Duterte wants other countries to withdraw from ICC

"What I know is that the Philippines was an active participant in the drafting or crafting of the instrument that led to the formation of the Rome Statute," said Fajardo.

The Duterte administration and EU have had strained relations as Philippine officials previously rejected aid, citing supposed conditions following its criticism of the drug war.

Fajardo surmised the President's response was "part of a legal strategy."

Watch the complete interview with Fajardo here.