Members of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, led by its newly-appointed Chief Justice Teresita de Castro (back C), hear oral arguments on the petition to quit the International Criminal Court, at the Supreme Court in Manila on Aug. 28, 2018. The Philippines' top court heard arguments on August 28 against President Rodrigo Duterte's move to quit the International Criminal Court which is examining his deadly drug war, with advocates calling it unconstitutional.
AFP/Ted Aljibe
ICC exit to take effect sans Supreme Court ruling on petitions
Kristine Joy Patag ( - March 12, 2019 - 4:44pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court has not released any action on the two petitions challenging the Philippine government’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court before the exit becomes effective on March 17.

The Supreme Court Public Information Office did not call for a press briefing on Tuesday, the last en banc session before the Philippines’ exit from the international tribunal takes effect on March 17.

A source from the SC said that the court had “no action” on the two petitions filed by opposition senators and the Philippine Coalition for the ICC last year.

READ: Pleas vs ICC withdrawal pending at SC as exit effectivity nears

The petitioners asked the SC to declare the executive branch’s withdrawal as “invalid or ineffective” due to lack of concurrence from at least two-thirds of the members of the Senate.

They also asked the tribunal to compel the executive department to recall and revoke the notice of withdrawal.

The SC held oral arguments on the petitions on August 28 and September 8 last year. After the parties submitted their respective memoranda, the case was deemed submitted for decision. 

Withdrawal to take effect on Sunday

President Rodrigo Duterte announced that the Philippines is withdrawing its ratification of the Rome Statute, which created the ICC, weeks after the international tribunal announced that it is conducting a preliminary examination into allegations of crimes against humanity in the country.

A preliminary examination involves determining whether the ICC has jurisdiction over the allegations.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Monday again asserted that the ICC never had jurisdiction over the Philippines in the first place since laws must be published in the Official Gazette or a newspaper of general circulation to be valid.

“The letter was a matter of courtesy,” Panelo said, adding that the country did not “withdraw.”

“They cannot be doing any investigation, because it never acquired jurisdiction over the Philippines,” the Palace spokesman also said.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra also asserted that the international tribunal cannot probe Duterte and his officials since Philippine courts are working, which goes against the ICC rule on “complementarity.” The international tribunal can only prosecute when States are unwilling or unable to do so genuinely.

He told The STAR: “As far as our country is concerned, the ICC cannot exercise its jurisdiction to investigate, much less to prosecute, because our own investigative agencies and judicial bodies are functioning effectively, albeit slowly.”

Panelo also shared Guevarra's sentitment and said that our courts “are willing and capable. We have a robust judicial system.”

In its annual report on December 2018, the ICC said that its Office of the Prosecutor has been conducting a thorough factual and legal assessment of the information available in order to reach a reasonable basis to believe that the alleged crimes fall within the jurisdiction of the court.

“The office has further closely followed relevant developments in the Philippines and will continue to do so,” it added. 

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