Palace insists: Philippines won't cooperate in ICC probe, following SC ruling on Rome Statute withdrawal


MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte still will not cooperate with an investigation by the International Criminal Court into alleged crimes against humanity due to the bloody "drug war," presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.

Roque on Thursday was asked to comment on part of the Supreme Court ruling dismissing the consolidated petitions that asked the tribunal to declare the Philippines’ departure from the Rome Statute as invalid due to non-concurrence of the Senate. In the ruling, made public only on Wednesday, the SC said through a ponencia by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen that following Article 127(2) of the Rome Statute, the Philippines is bound by its obligations when it was still a member of the international tribunal.

But Roque pointed out that the part of the ruling was merely an “obiter dictum” or an incidental expression of an opinion of a judge, which has no binding effect.

The SC had said: “Until the withdrawal took effect of March 17, 2019, the Philippines was committed to meet its obligations under the Rome Statute. Any and all governmental acts up to March 17, 2019 may be taken cognizance by the [ICC].”

Senate concurrence?

In a virtual briefing from the Palace, Roque pointed out that the main issue raised by petitioners was whether Senate concurrence is required in the withdrawal from the Rome Statute.

“An obiter dicta does not really have jurisprudential value, it is on the side, it is not on the merits, it is not the main ruling of the court and we are not of course in any way concerned of that obiter. That’s the nature of obiters,” he added.

“Unfortunately, the lack of enforcement mechanism cannot compel the Philippines to cooperate when the president has clearly said we will not do so,” the Palace spokesperson added.

Roque’s former colleague at CenterLaw and now petitioner in the ICC case, Romel Bagares, said the SC’s remarks were not obiter but “part of the key holdings of the Court.”

Roque said he disagrees with Bagares’ view and added partly in Filipino: “The court will not vote moot and academic if they think that the Constitution was violated.”

ICC investigation continues

The ICC however had already said in December 2018 that it will continue to assess the communications into President Rodrigo Duterte’s alleged crimes against humanity despite the Philippines’ withdrawal of its ratification from the Rome Statute

Then-ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s preliminary examination into the Philippines concluded in June, and on what has been called as her valedictory, she made public a 57-page request to the pre-trial chamber to be allowed to proceed with the investigation.

Bensouda said her office found "a reasonable basis to believe that the crime against humanity of murder has been committed... in the context of the Government of the Philippines' 'war on drugs' campaign."

The SC unanimously dismissed the three consolidated petitions filed by minority senators, the Philippine Coalition for International Criminal Court and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

It held that the petitioners lacked legal standing to sue and citing transcendental importance must be justified only in extraordinary circumstances.

“The alleged transcendental importance of the issues raised here will be better served when there are actual cases with the proper parties suffering an actual or imminent injury. No injury so great and so imminent was shown here, such that this Court cannot instead adjudicate on the occasion of an appropriate case,” it added. — Kristine Joy Patag





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