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Duterte urges other countries to withdraw from International Criminal Court

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Duterte urges other countries to withdraw from International Criminal Court

O-Gon Kwon

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte yesterday called on countries that ratified the Rome Statute to follow his example and withdraw from the treaty as he stressed that the International Criminal Court (ICC) would not have jurisdiction over him. 

Duterte said the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, was sponsored by the European Union because the EU bloc is making up for its past “sins” and “brutality.”

The President said the EU, which expressed concerns over the deaths tied to his brutal war on illegal drugs, stole oil from the Arabs and sowed division in the Middle East. 

“I will convince everybody now who are under the treaty... get out, get out, bastos ‘yan (that’s disrespectful),” Duterte said during the graduation of the Philippine Military Academy’s “Alab Tala” class of 2018 in Baguio City. 

“These white fools from EU... I tell you, they are doing it to atone for their sins. They are (seeking pardon) for the many years of brutality that they inflicted. In the Middle East, they took so much of the oil, they increased their productivity and made the country rich while leaving the poor Arabs to fight against one another. They divided the Middle East.”

Last week, Duterte withdrew the Philippines’ ratification of the Rome Statute, citing the alleged “outrageous attacks” against him by the ICC and United Nations officials.

He said the ICC, which has started its preliminary examination on his anti-narcotics crackdown, is being used as a “political tool” to harass the Philippines.

The ICC acted on a communication by lawyer Jude Sabio, who claimed that Duterte was responsible for the deaths of more than 7,000 suspected drug personalities. 

The Philippines is the second nation to withdraw from the Rome Statute after Burundi, which backed out of the treaty in October 2017. 

Duterte earlier claimed he was ready to face the ICC and to be executed for waging a war against illegal drugs.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte’s stance changed after UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein advised the President to see a psychiatrist.

Critics are convinced that Duterte withdrew the Philippines’ ratification of the Rome Statute because he was afraid to face the ICC.

Duterte’s officials denied this, saying the President’s war on drugs is a legitimate law enforcement operation.

The administration claimed the Philippines is not bound by the Rome Statute as the treaty was not published in the Official Gazette, the official publication of the government.

Legal experts said publication is not a requirement for a treaty to take effect. 

‘No publication,  no law’

Duterte insisted that publication is necessary for treaties related to criminal offenses. 

“The treaty, if you read it, it’s bull... It is clearly a criminal law,” he  said. 

“You have to publish it so people would not be ignorant. Because if it is not published, you cannot tell me now that ignorance of the law excuses no one. It has to be published in the Official Gazette,” he added. 

“Now, if there is no publication... it is fatal especially a criminal law.”

Duterte disputed a claim that the withdrawal of a treaty would take effect after a year, saying the Rome Statute is not binding on the Philippines because it failed to meet the publication requirement. 

“According to these fools who happen to be senators, it would take about one year before the withdrawal takes effect. I do not know where we are heading to. You know, if it is not published, there is no law. So there is no reason to withdraw something which is not existing,” Duterte said. 

‘Just do your job’

Duterte reiterated that he would not allow the ICC to have jurisdiction over him. He also vowed to continue his crackdown on illegal drugs despite the criticisms and legal challenges he is facing. 

“They have been investigating me since I was a mayor. I already studied my lesson... I said you will not have jurisdiction over my person not in one million years,” the President said. 

“Our children are in jeopardy. If I renege now, I would have compromised and placed them in jeopardy, this generation and our children... I need to finish this,” he added. 

Duterte assured government forces that he would protect them if they face legal troubles related to their work. 

“Just do your job and I will take care of the rest,” the President added. 

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said Duterte is bent on withdrawing from the Rome Statute despite calls for him to reconsider his decision. 

“The President is already fed up because the ICC is very one-sided,” Andanar said.

He said there is no need for the ICC to interfere with the Philippines’ issues because the country’s judicial system is working. 

O-Gon Kwon, president of the ICC’s member assembly, urged the Philippines to remain a member of the court and to engage in dialogue instead of withdrawing from the treaty. 

Nothing unusual

There is nothing unusual about Duterte’s decision to withdraw the Philippines’ from the Rome Statute as Washington itself did it too, an administration lawmaker said. 

“In spite of its reputation as the global champion of human rights, America has spurned the ICC. So we are now in a similar situation,” Rep. Johnny Pimentel, chairman of the House committee on good government and public accountability, said.  

“The only difference is that while the US was never a party to the Rome Statute, we are a party to the treaty who has decided to quit,” Pimentel said, adding China and India – that have at least a billion people – were non-members, along with Indonesia, Israel and Sudan. 

“Our departure from the ICC does not make us less devoted to the protection of human rights, in the same manner that America’s snub of the tribunal does not make that country less dedicated to human rights,” Pimentel maintained. 

The US opted not to ratify the Rome Statute out of concern that it might be put in a quandary if US soldiers and their commanders are investigated, prosecuted and put on trial before the ICC for purported war crimes committed while operating in foreign lands.

“This is why you will never hear the White House or the US state department passing judgment on our withdrawal from the ICC,” Pimentel said.

Duterte enjoys the prerogative to pull the Philippines out of the ICC, he said.  “As chief executive, the President is also our lead foreign policy architect. He is in fact our chief diplomat”, Pimental said.

Duterte, who has been waging a brutal war against illegal drugs, is under preliminary examination by the ICC for supposed crimes against humanity in connection with the alleged extrajudicial killings of thousands of drug suspects. - With Delon Porcalla

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