By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — As the Philippines withdrawal from the International Criminal Court takes effect today, rights groups warned of escalating human rights abuses and further impunity.
Senatorial candidate and long-time human rights lawyer Neri Colmenares slammed President Rodrigo Duterte’s “self-serving” move. In his speech March 14 at the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), Colmenares said Duterte intends to evade accountability for his crimes against poor Filipinos.
The ICC has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression.
Duterte announced the country’s exit from the ICC after the tribunal started its preliminary examination of the charge of crimes against humanity filed against the President. Two complaints were filed against Duterte — one by Jude Sabio, lawyer of self-confessed Davao Death Squad member Edgar Matobato, and another by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, counsel of families of victims of extrajudicial killings.
Still, Colmenares explained that the withdrawal has no impact on the pending complaints filed against Duterte.
He cited Article 127 Rome Statute of the ICC stating that “a State shall not be discharged, by reason of its withdrawal, from the obligations arising from this Statute while it was a Party to the Statute.” The Rome Statute further states that a State’s withdrawal shall not affect any criminal investigations and proceedings which were commenced prior to the date on which the withdrawal became effective, nor shall it prejudice in any way the continued consideration of any matter which was already under consideration by the Court prior to the date on which the withdrawal became effective.”
Colmenares said the ICC has jurisdiction over Duterte because domestic laws provide the Philippine president immunity from suit.
For its part, human rights alliance Karapatan underscored Duterte’s “double-talk” with regard to the ICC.
“Duterte previously denied ordering extrajudicial killings, only to admit to it in several live telecast. He has also expressed willingness to subject himself to investigation under the ICC, but withdrew the country from the Rome Statute. This government has denied perpetrating human rights violations while persecuting human rights advocates and silencing the voices of victims and their kin who counter the State’s repeated denials,” Roneo Clamor, Karapatan deputy secretary general, said in a statement.
“The Duterte government is run by pathological liars and militarists who are corrupt to the core, able to subvert laws and mechanisms to evade accountability,” Clamor said.
In a separate statement, NUPL President Edre Olalia said that with the Philippines’ exit from the ICC, “victims will again be deprived of an alternative arena for redress.”
In lieu of the ICC, Olalia said other means of exacting accountability could be explored, such as the creation of a special tribunal sanctioned by the United Nations or through people’s tribunals. #