Opposition, rights groups hit Duterte for ICC pullout

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 17) — Three members of the opposition and some civil society groups on Sunday lambasted President Rodrigo Duterte for his decision to pull the country out from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In a statement, detained Senator Leila de Lima said the decision is a "solid proof that the President is a guilty man who is fleeing from justice."

"Instead of facing the music, Duterte is running scared. Behind the delusional bravado of a tyrant is a man who hides behind the legal acrobatics of his men," de Lima said.

"He may not (yet) be fleeing physically, but he is surely fleeing by abusing his powers as President and usurping the powers of two other branches of government," she added.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, called the withdrawal as "Duterte's desperate exit plan to escape international public accountability."

She said the decision defends "the climate of killing and impunity in the country."

"Hindi ito pagtataguyod ng ating soberanya. Ito ay pagtatanggol sa isang tiranya," Hontiveros said in a separate statement.

[Translation: It is not upholding our sovereignty. It is defending a tyranny.]

The senator stressed that Duterte can still be held liable while the country was signatory to the ICC.

"It will not discharge our country of its obligations while it was still a party to the said agreement. It will also not disable our country's cooperation with the ICC conducting criminal investigations which were initiated before the said withdrawal," Hontiveros said.

"I'm sorry, Mr. President, but you cannot evade calls for justice and accountability with a simple goodbye to the ICC," she added.

The country's withdrawal from the ICC, which took effect Sunday, comes after Duterte announced last year his move to take the country out of the international court's jurisdiction following a case filed against him in relation to his violent anti-drug campaign.

The Philippines is the second country to leave the ICC after Burundi in 2017.

READ: PH withdrawal from ICC takes effect Sunday

For Otso Diretso senatorial bet Gary Alejano, the withdrawal "provides no benefit to our country," and only "paints our country negatively before the international community."

In a separate statement, Alejano pointed out the "wide and long-term implications and consequences" of the country's pullout from the international tribunal.

He said the decision, which was "made solely by the President and his cohorts," "will embolden our leaders to commit further human rights violations."

The senatorial aspirant added that the withdrawal will hamper the Philippines from receiving supports from other countries, as the decision "signifies an act that goes against universal values."

"Let me emphasize that the ICC continues to maintain jurisdiction to investigate complaints for extra-judicial killings that were committed before the effectivity of the withdrawal.

"I dare say the enablers of extra-judicial killings in this country will pay the price in full. They will not be spared from the clutches of justice once the war on drugs, which have claimed thousands of Filipino lives, is proven to be a crime against humanity," he said.

"You can withdraw but you cannot hide," Alejano added.

Rights groups oppose

Civil society groups fear that the human rights violations under the Duterte administration will worsen due to the withdrawal.

Human rights group Karapatan said victims of alleged extrajudicial killings which happened in connection to the war on drugs lost another venue to seek justice.

"Ang problema dito, majority of the cases remain unresolved. Lalong tatagal yung kanilang pangarap na magkaroon ng hustisya ang kanilang mahal sa buhay," Karapatan's Deputy Secretary General Jigs Clamor said.

[Translation: The problem is that majority of the cases remain unsolved. Their dreams of justice for their loved ones will take a while.]

Clamor sees the move as a setback in the fight to make public officials accountable even if the ICC pursues its probe after the country's exit.

"It took several years before finally, the Philippine government signed and ratified it, only to put this to a trash bin," Clamor said.

The National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL) said the Philippine's exit from the ICC means the tribunal can no longer investigate any crime that the government might commit in the future.

"'Yung mga paglabag ng karapatang pantao, 'yung sa mandato ng ICC na mangyayari sa hinaharap ay hindi na maco-cover ng tratadong ito at di na magkakaroon ng iba pang larangan ang mga biktima," NUPL Secretary General Edre Olalia said.

[Translation: Those violations of human rights that will happen in the future will no longer be covered by the treaty as mandated by the ICC and victims would have nowhere else to go.]

Olalia said the Supreme Court can also declare the country's withdrawal as invalid since it was not ratified by the Senate.

"I don't think there's any hindrance or legal impediment by which a state can go back. The Supreme Court, if it is so minded, can come up with a decision overturning the withdrawal," Olalia said.

Olalia said the murder conviction in the killing of teenager Kian delos Santos, which the government had cited as proof that the justice system is working, is not enough assurance that other victims of alleged EJKs will have justice.

"Out of the several thousands, one, two do not make the rule," he said.

"That is just an excuse to escape liability. Why is it now that the Philippine government is invoking such a thing?" he added.

Olalia said the Supreme Court can also declare the country's withdrawal as invalid since it was not ratified by the senate.

"I don't think there's any hindrance or legal impediment by which a state can go back. The Supreme Court, if it is so minded, can come up with a decision overturning the withdrawal," Olalia said.

CNN Philippines' Correspondent Xianne Arcangel and Digital Producer Robert Vergara contributed to this report.