De Lima urges Marcos admin to restore Philippine membership in ICC

Angelica Y. Yang - Philstar.com
De Lima urges Marcos admin to restore Philippine membership in ICC
The seat of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Netherlands is seen in this photo release by the International Commission of Jurists, a non-governmental organization advocating for human rights.
ICJ / Released

MANILA, Philippines — Former Sen. Leila de Lima called on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to re-establish the country as a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the prosecutor's office of which has recently asked to re-open the probe into the drug war of Marcos Jr.'s predecessor. 

In 2011, the Philippines ratified the treaty which established the ICC— known as the Rome Statute. Seven years later, then President Rodrigo Duterte withdrew the country's ratification of the treaty, citing "baseless, unprecedented and outrageous attacks" on him and his administration, and accusing the ICC of being used as a political tool against the country. 

In a statement Friday, De Lima said that the Hague-based ICC is the court of last resort which can exercise jurisdiction if the state itself is unable or unwilling to investigate crimes — which is why she believes it is important for the new administration to make the Philippines a member again of the international tribunal. 

READ: Duterte lashes out at ICC, says he will only face Philippine court

"Restoring the country’s membership in the ICC will not only bring positive impact to the country’s image, but it will also strengthen our defense against possible future acts of aggression by foreign countries and protect people from crimes against humanity committed by state forces," she said. 

For her, being a member of the ICC and a state-party to the Rome Statute is vital in holding those responsible for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity accountable for their actions when the State courts cannot do so. 

“Our membership means a solid protection for all the Filipinos and is vital in upholding human rights of all persons, and the holding of public officials accountable to their abuses against the people they ought to serve," the former lawmaker said. 

RELATED: ICC: Victims 'overwhelmingly support' investigation into Philippine 'drug war'

Based on the ICC's primer, it is not considered as a substitute for national courts and can only intervene when a State is "unable or unwilling genuinely to carry out the investigation and prosecute the perpetrators."

In 2018, the ICC launched a preliminary examination into the alleged killings and human rights violations that took place under Duterte's controversial war on drugs. 

De Lima is among the individuals who questioned the constitutionality of the withdrawal at the Supreme Court in May 2018, arguing that the country's withdrawal from the Rome Statute first needed the approval from at least two-thirds of the members of the Senate. 

The SC, voting unanimously, dismissed the three petitions due to mootness. 

The Philippines' departure from the ICC, which took effect on March 17, 2019, makes the country the second to leave the tribunal. 

De Lima, a staunch critic of the Duterte administration, has been detained in Camp Crame for more than five years over conspiracy charges to commit illegal drug trading— which she has consistently denied. She ran for a fresh term in the Senate in her cell, but did not make it to the so-called "Magic 12" in the 2022 polls.

De Lima has been vocal against former President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs where 6,221 suspects were reported to have died due to anti-drug operations by state agents, based on official figures. But the death toll may be closer to 30,000, according to local and international human rights groups. 

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