De Lima seeks SC permission to attend oral arguments on ICC

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In this photo taken on February 16, 2017, Philippine Senator Leila de Lima arriving at the Senate session hall in Manila. — AFP

By Dane Angelo M. Enerio

DETAINED SENATOR Leila M. De Lima has asked the Supreme Court (SC) to allow her “to personally appear and represent herself” in the oral arguments on the petition seeking to declare unconstitutional and invalid the Philippines’ withdrawal from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

According to her four-page motion dated June 25 and released to media on Wednesday, “the Rules of Court expressly allows a litigant to personally prosecute his or her case.”

The petition cited Santos vs. Judge Ubaldino wherein the high court ruled, “The individual litigant may personally do everything in the process of the action from commencement to the termination of the litigation. A party’s representation on his own behalf is not considered to be a practice of law as ‘one does not practice law by acting for himself, any more than he practices medicine by rendering first aid to himself.’”

It added the court should “take judicial notice of its practice of permitting members of Congress to appear before it and argue their cases.”

“The situation of Senator De Lima is not different from them,” it pointed out.

Ms. De Lima, a leading critic of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, surrendered herself to authorities on Feb. 24 last year over drug charges filed by the Department of Justice (DoJ).

The petition submitted on May 16 by her and fellow opposition Senators Francis N. Pangilinan, Franklin M. Drilon, Paolo Benigno A. Aquino IV, Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, and Antonio F. Trillanes IV challenged Mr. Duterte’s withdrawal last March from the treaty as it did not go through Congress.

On March 16, Philippine Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. submitted before the international body the Philippines’ notice of withdrawal. This petition was in response to the ICC’s preliminary examination on alleged crimes against humanity committed under the drug war of Mr. Duterte’s administration.

The Palace and other legal experts have pointed out that withdrawal from the ICC does not need the Senate’s authority.

But Mr. Locsin, posting on Twitter on Wednesday, said, “By the way, before we (f—) up, can we please get the Senate to ratify the withdrawal from the ICC? It is an executive initiative to withdraw, no one can question his wisdom, but the Senate must ratify. Do we have the numbers or not(?)”

A second petition, filed by non-government organization Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court, was submitted to the high court on June 13 using similar arguments.

According to a Supreme Court notice received by Ms. De Lima’s office on Wednesday, the court consolidated both petitions and pushed the oral arguments to July 24-Aug. 7.

The high court also ordered all respondents to submit their comments on their respective petitions.

The respondents for both petitions are Mr. Locsin, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano, and Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea, with Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador S. Panelo being present only in the petition of Ms. De Lima and her co-Senators.