MANILA — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Friday the Philippines has begun the process for its withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) when it officially served notice to the United Nations that it has decided to opt out of the Rome Statute.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the withdrawal was formally conveyed in a note verbale that Philippine Permanent Representative Teodoro Locsin Jr. handed over to Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, the Chef de Cabinet of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at 6:07 p.m. New York time Thursday or 6:07 a.m. Manila time Friday.
With the delivery of the notice, the countdown for the one-year withdrawal period from the ICC officially began on March 15, 2018.
“Our decision to pull out of the Court is a principled stand against those who politicize and weaponize human rights,” Cayetano said in a statement issued shortly after arriving Friday morning in Sydney where he will represent President Rodrigo R. Duterte in the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit.
In the note conveying the withdrawal, the Philippine Mission to the UN explained that the decision was based on a “principled stand” against those who politicize and weaponize human rights despite its judicial system that continues to function.
The mission stressed that the Philippine government “continues to be guided by the rule of law embodied in its Constitution, which also enshrines the country’s long-standing tradition of upholding human rights”.
Despite the withdrawal, the mission pointed out Manila is committed to fight against impunity as there is an existing national legislation punishing atrocity crimes in the Philippines.
“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 for all,” the letter read.
In his statement, Cayetano pointed to a campaign against Duterte and the Philippines that distorts the human rights situation in the country.
“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.
“We are, however, confident that there is no crime or liability to speak of in the first place since our campaign against methamphetamines and other narcotics is a legitimate law enforcement operation designed to protect all Filipinos and uphold the rule of law,” he added.
According to the official, it has always been the position of the Philippines that States have the inherent responsibility to adopt and implement measures, consistent with their respective laws, to effectively address threats to the safety and well-being of their citizens.
He said that in the case of the Philippines, Duterte has identified the proliferation of illegal drugs and its link to other forms of criminality as a serious threat to people that had to be immediately addressed.
“The campaign we are waging against illegal drugs is consistent with the sovereign duty of any State to protect its people,” he said, adding that in the conduct of this campaign, the Philippines is guided by the rule of law embodied in its Constitution, statutes, and its long-standing human rights obligations.
“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,” Cayetano said. “These are dealt with by independent and well-functioning organs and agencies of our State.”
The country signed the Rome Statute on Dec. 28, 2000 and ratified and endorsed it in August 2011. On Wednesday, Duterte announced the Philippines is withdrawing from the treaty “effective immediately”.
Under the Rome Statute’s principle of “complementarity”, the ICC serves as a last resort that could only assume jurisdiction in cases where a national government has failed to address international crimes.
The jurisdiction of the ICC is only limited to four types of cases: war crimes, genocide, aggression, and crimes against humanity.
In a recent television interview, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said the international court violated its complementarity rule, “the very fundamental basis by which we gave our consent to be part of the ICC”, when it began the preliminary examination against the administration’s campaign against illegal drugs. (PNA)
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