In this July 16, 2018 photo, President Rodrigo Duterte is accompanied by Malaysia Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Bin Mohamad upon his arrival at the Perdana Putra in Putrajaya for a meeting. Mahathir will undertake an official visit to the Philippines on March 6 to 7.
Presidential Photo/Albert Alcain, File
Malaysia's Mahathir: Duterte 'has right to decide' on withdrawal from ICC
( - March 7, 2019 - 11:51am

MANILA, Philippines —Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said President Rodrigo Duterte has the right to withdraw the Philippines’ ratification of the treaty that established the International Criminal Court.

Mahathir said this in an interview on the ABS-CBN News Channel Thursday, a few days after Malaysia became the 124th member of ICC—the Hague-based tribunal meant to prosecute the worst abuses when national courts are unable or unwilling.

“Malaysia feels that today, borders are no longer barriers against people moving and we see crimes crossing borders all the time. So we need to take actions against criminals wherever they may be and that’s why we’re member of that organization,” Mahathir said.

Malaysia's move to join the ICC has been seen as a boost for the institution, which has seen high-profile acquittals, African country Burundi becoming the first nation to quit the court and the Philippines announcing its intention to withdraw.

Asked if he would discourage Duterte from pulling out of the ICC, the Malaysian prime minister—who is in the country for a two-day visit—said: “I think he has the right to decide on his own according to what he perceives is happening in the Philippines as well as the rest of the world.”

On March 16, 2018, the Philippines formally submitted its letter of withdrawal from the Rome Statute of the ICC after the court’s chief prosecutor launched a preliminary examination into the alleged crimes against humanity of Duterte and his men in the government’s war on drugs. An examination is different from an investigation and the Palace had initially welcomed the development as an avenue for the government to address allegations of extrajudicial killings.

The withdrawal will take effect a year after the date of receipt of the notification.

Withdrawal questioned at SC

Last August, the Supreme Court held oral arguments on the petitions challenging the Duterte administration’s unilateral pullout from the Rome Statute.

The petitioners argued that the withdrawal was invalid due to the absence of concurrence from the Senate.

Article VII, Section 21 of the 1987 Constitution states that no treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the members of the upper chamber.

The charter, however, is silent on the upper chamber’s part in the withdrawal.

The decision on that petition is still pending.

‘Democracy under threat everywhere’

Asked if democracy is under threat in the Philippines, the Malaysian prime minister responded that democracies everywhere are backsliding.

“Democracy is under threat everywhere. But the fact is some are able to overcome, some are not. I think by and that the Southeast Asia including the Philippines have been able to sustain a democracy in almost all the different interpretations that you may [have] about democracy,” Mahathir said.

Duterte is seen as a threat to democracy and human rights in Southeast Asia as he continues to wage his signature campaign against drugs and crimes and attacks against those who express opposition to his policies.

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Index for 2018 classified the Philippines as “flawed democracy or one that has free and fair elections and, even if there are problems (such as infringements on media freedom), basic civil liberties are respected.”

Flawed democracies also have “significant weaknesses in other aspects of democracy, including problems in governance, an underdeveloped political culture and low levels of political participation.” — Gaea Katreena Cabico with a report from Agence France-Presse

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