By Camille A. Aguinaldo
THE countdown for the one-year withdrawal period of the Philippines from the International Criminal Court (ICC) started Friday, March 15, as the country formally transmitted its notice to the international body that it has decided to opt out of the Rome Statute.
In a statement, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano said the withdrawal was formally conveyed in a note verbale handed over to the UN Secretary General Chef de Cabinet Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti by Philippine Permanent Representative Teodoro L. Locsin Jr.
“The decision to withdraw is the Philippines’ principal stand against those who politicize and weaponize human rights, even as its independent and well-functioning organs and agencies continue to exercise jurisdiction over complaints, issues, problems and concerns arising from its efforts to protect its people,” stated the March 15 letter addressed to UN Secretary-General Antonio M. Guterres.
According to the Rome Statute, a country wishing to withdraw from the ICC should send a written notification to the UN Secretary-General. The withdrawal would take effect one year after the date of notification, “unless the notification specifies a later date.”
The Philippines assured the international community in its March 15 letter that it continues to be guided by the rule of law embodied in its Constitution and long-standing tradition of upholding human rights.
“The Government affirms its commitment to fight against impunity for atrocity crimes, notwithstanding its withdrawal from the Rome Statute, especially since the Philippines has a national legislation punishing atrocity crimes,” the note stated.
“The Government remains resolute in effecting its principal responsibility to ensure the long-term safety of the nation in order to promote inclusive national development and secure a decent and dignified life for all,” it added.
Mr. Cayetano said the country’s decision to pull out of the Rome Statute stemmed from the “well-orchestrated campaign to mislead the international community” regarding human rights issues hounding President Rodrigo R. Duterte.
“It is doubly lamentable that members of the international community, who include our own partners in the war against terror, have allowed themselves to be used as pawns by these individuals and organizations in undermining our own efforts to restore the rule of law,” he said in a statement issued shortly arriving in Sydney for the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit.
He also defended the government’s anti-drug campaign, stressing that it was a “legitimate law enforcement operation” guided by the rules of law embodied in the Constitution, statutes and human rights obligations.
“The campaign we are waging against illegal drugs is consistent with the sovereign duty of any State to protect its people. Contrary to what some parties are trying to make it appear, there is no failure on the part of the Philippine Government in dealing with issues, problems, and concerns arising from this campaign,” Mr. Cayetano said.
For its part, the European Union in a statement to the UN Human Rights Council Geneva on Wednesday said of the Philippines: “The EU remains deeply concerned about the high number of killings associated with the campaign against illegal drugs in the Philippines. The EU emphasizes the importance of carrying out the campaign with a focus on public health and in full compliance with due process, national law and international human rights law. It is imperative to conduct prompt, effective, impartial and transparent investigations of all cases of death leading to prosecution in all cases of unlawful killing.”