PRESIDENTIAL spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. told an assembly of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Thursday, Dec. 7, that it should “resist attempts by some sectors to treat the Court as a venue to pursue political agenda to destabilize governments and undermine legitimate national authorities.”

Citing also the principle of “complementarity” between the ICC and its party states, Mr. Roque also warned that a “violation of (this) very basis for our consent…will constrain us to reassess our continuing commitment to the Court and the Rome Statute,” the 1998 treaty on which the ICC was established.

Mr. Roque delivered his remarks at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on the occasion of the General Debate of the 16th Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

“The Philippines reaffirms its support for the principles of the Rome Statute and the Court, including efforts to have candid dialogue and consultations to address allegations of inequality and unfairness in the work of the Court,” Mr. Roque said in his speech, adding:

“In reaffirming our commitment to the Rome Statute and the Court, we are also reminded that the Court is a court of last resort.”

“The States Parties to the Rome Statute envisioned a court with a complementary, not primary, jurisdiction for the prosecution of the persons most responsible for the most serious crimes of international concern.”

“Ongoing national proceedings in relation to these crimes must therefore be respected, consistent not only with our sovereign right and responsibility to prosecute crimes committed in our territory, but also with the principle of complementarity that has been the basis for the Court’s mandate.”

Mr. Roque said the Philippines “anchored its consent to be bound by the Rome Statute on the principle of complementarity.”

“(A)ctions…that politicize and dilute the Court’s mandate,” he said, “ultimately undermine national efforts to punish and prosecute crimes covered by the Statute and derail current efforts to achieve universality of the Rome Statute.”

Mr. Roque added that the recent siege in Marawi City “serves as a crucial reminder” of the “intimate and indisputable link between terrorism and the illegal drug trade.”

The spokesperson also said the Philippines is “prepared to act, as we have always so acted, to bring to bear our national criminal justice system upon those who violate our laws and pose a threat to our national security.”

In its response to Mr. Roque’s speech, Human Rights Watch said in a statement: “(Mr.) Roque is correct that under the ICC’s statute, the court may only step in when national authorities are unable or unwilling to do so.”

“Yet his assertion that the Philippine government has been willing and able to investigate those deaths has simply not been true. The government has made no genuine efforts to seek accountability for drug war abuses. There have been no successful prosecutions or convictions of police implicated in summary killings despite compelling evidence of such abuses,” the New York-based advocacy group also said. — with Minde Nyl R. Dela Cruz