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Yasay: Philippines can withdraw from ICC

MANILA, Philippines – Despite clarification from the International Criminal Court (ICC) that there is no impending investigation into the cases of extrajudicial killings in the country amid President Duterte’s bloody war against drugs, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said Tuesday it would still be possible for the Philippines to withdraw from the body.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Yasay said the ICC’s mandate covered crimes against race and religion, not those related to drugs and that it could only come in if the local justice system was not working.

The Philippines is a party to the ICC, which gives the court jurisdiction over genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Philippines and those committed elsewhere by Philippine nationals.

The government has been saying it does not sanction arbitrary or summary executions happening in the course of the drug war.

Yasay said it was “irresponsible” and “completely unfounded” to warn the Philippines of possible prosecution by the ICC. 

“If they (ICC) continue then the only option will be for us to withdraw because the basis upon which we signed and became a member of the ICC is no longer being pursued,” Yasay said.

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Yasay said the Philippines agreed to be a part of the ICC but “complementary” to Philippine laws. 

“…we have our own criminal justice system that will first and foremost play an important role in these things and where there are deficiencies or shortcomings in our own system, then we can resort to that complementary aspect of the Rome Statute,” he stressed.

According to Yasay, the Philippine criminal justice system is working very effectively and vigilantly. 

“Under the circumstances why should somebody, the ICC, say the president of the Philippines will be prosecuted under the Rome Statute? What is the basis for that? In our own law the President enjoys immunity. You can’t be prosecuted,” he said.

In October, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said her office was watching for signs of officials “ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing” to crimes against humanity in the Philippines.

She expressed deep concern about the alleged killings and the fact that public statements of high officials in the country seemed to condone such killings and encourage state forces and civilians alike to continue targeting drug personalities with lethal force.

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