Speaking at a forum at the Taguig facility of the University of the Philippines yesterday, Panelo maintained it is within the mandate of the President to withdraw from international agreements such as the Rome Statute that created the ICC.   File

‘No need for public consultation on ICC withdrawal’
Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - March 21, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — There is no need for President Duterte to consult the public or other branches of government in his decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC), according to presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo.

Speaking at a forum at the Taguig facility of the University of the Philippines yesterday, Panelo maintained it is within the mandate of the President to withdraw from international agreements such as the Rome Statute that created the ICC.

“The President is the chief architect of foreign policy. He doesn’t have to consult. He was precisely elected to be leader of this country. Everything that he does would be a reflection of the sentiments of the Filipino people,” Panelo said.

Panelo reiterated the reasons for withdrawing from the Rome Statute, including the supposed failure to publish the treaty in the Official Gazette and the alleged fraud committed by the ICC prosecutor when it initiated a preliminary examination on the situation in the Philippines.

He also maintained that the ICC does not need to conduct an examination of the situation in the Philippines as the rule of law supposedly works in the country.

“They can only assume jurisdiction if the state is not willing or unable (to investigate cases). But this country has shown, our state has shown, that the judicial system is functioning,” he said.

Panelo claimed that several policemen are on trial for alleged abuse of power, apparently referring to police officers charged for the death of teenagers Kian Lloyd delos Santos, Carl Angelo Arnaiz and Reynaldo de Guzman.

Thousands of other deaths, including those killed in police operations, remain uninvestigated, according to various human rights organizations.

In the same forum, various legal experts also countered the position of Malacañang in defending the withdrawal from the ICC.

Calling it “funny” and “ludicrous,” law professor Tony La Viña said the publication requirement is not necessary for international agreements such as the Rome Statute.

“If you follow that logic, all the treatises that we have entered into would not have such an effect then,” he said, adding that a treaty would become effective after the Senate ratification and the depositing of the instruments of ratification at the United Nations headquarters.

Commission on Human Rights (CHR) commissioner Roberto Cadiz also stressed the need for Senate approval before the Philippines can withdraw from the Rome Statute.

“The withdrawal cannot just be done by the Office of the President, in the same manner that the treaty cannot be entered solely by the President… The Senate must also ratify the withdrawal,” he said.

Cadiz noted that the decision to withdraw from the ICC appears to be made by the President on a personal level.

He warned Duterte against lumping together different UN officials, saying that a statement from one agency does not automatically apply to an independent body such as the ICC.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, for his part, also cited the filing of charges against policemen involved in the killing of Kian and the others as proof that the justice system is working and there is no need for the ICC step into the picture.

Meanwhile, the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) is urging Duterte to reconsider his decision to withdraw from the ICC.            

In a six-page letter, ICJ secretary general Sam Zarifi told the President the withdrawal would not only be a setback to the cause of human rights but would also send a message to the world that the Philippines is turning its back on the rule of law and international justice.

“Irrespective of the ICC jurisdiction, we reiterate our previous call that the government must respect its obligations under human rights law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to take immediate and effective measures to address the thousands of cases of extrajudicial killings in the country,” Zarifi said in the letter. – Marc Jayson Cayabyab

INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT
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