MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 22 February)—Philippine officials, including the President himself, have been issuing misleading statements related to their stern refusal to allow the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor to conduct an investigation into the thousands of alleged extrajudicial killings under former President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs.”
They’re saying that the ICC could no longer do such an investigation because it no longer has “jurisdiction over the Philippines,” as the country has withdrawn from the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the court.
It’s a play on words. For while it’s true that the ICC no longer has jurisdiction over the Philippines, it retains jurisdiction over cases that happened from the time the country became a State Party to the Statute until its withdrawal became effective. This is provided for in Article 127-2 of the Statute.
As I mentioned in a previous column, the period over which the ICC still has jurisdiction starts from 1 November 2011, the date the treaty went into effect in the Philippines, until 16 March 2019, a year after the formal notice of withdrawal was received by the United Nations.
Also, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. called the ICC decision to proceed with the investigation a “threat to our sovereignty.”
This is a major flip-flop coming from the President himself. As a senator in 2011, Marcos Jr. voted for the treaty. Only then-Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, now Malacañang’s legal counsel who had said he would want to see the ICC prosecutor arrested once he sets foot on Philippine soil, voted against it.
Despite questions about his intellectual adeptness I’d like to believe that the former senator and now President clearly understood what he was voting for. Like any other piece of law or treaty the provisions of the Rome Statute leave nothing to doubts or debate.
It’s apparent that Marcos Jr. has chosen political expediency over [our] international obligation. He is trying to shield Duterte from a possible indictment before the ICC, a move that’s even premature, to say the least, as the investigation is yet to start. No one knows how far the prosecutor could go in terms of establishing official accountability.
Of course, the ICC cannot arm-twist Philippine authorities into cooperating with the investigation. Like the rest of the human rights treaties, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights, for example, everything rests on the goodwill of the States Parties to honor their commitments to the international community.
On periodic intervals, the Philippines, as a State Party, is required to submit reports on the progress made relative to compliance to these UN instruments. This isn’t considered an impingement on national sovereignty but, as the UN Preamble states, an act “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.” (Emphasis mine)
It’s not our sovereignty that is at stake here but our capacity to honor international obligations for the advancement of human rights and the rule of law.
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at email@example.com.)