Former Senator Leila M. de Lima urged the new administration to restore the Philippines’ membership in the International Criminal Court (ICC), which ended when then President Rodrigo Duterte decided in March 2018 to unilaterally withdraw from the Rome Statute, the treaty creating the international tribunal.
De Lima, a known social justice and human rights champion here and abroad, maintained that the country’s membership in the ICC will strengthen its defense against human rights abuses and impunity, and will bring positive impact to the country’s image.
“Apart from cooperating with the ICC’s probe into the Philippines’ situation relative to the Duterte regime’s drug war killings, one concrete way to honor the ICC as it marks its 20th anniversary is for the new government to restore its ICC membership,” she said.
“Restoring the country’s membership in the ICC will not only bring positive impact to the country’s image, but it will also strengthen our defense against possible future acts of aggression by foreign countries and protect people from crimes against humanity committed by state forces,” she added.
The ICC, which is a court of last resort that can exercise jurisdiction if States are unable or unwilling to investigate crimes, marks its 20th anniversary as one of the permanent pillars of the international legal system today (July 1).
Ahead of its 20th anniversary, the ICC called on states worldwide to renew their support, including arresting suspects and freezing assets of perpetrators of the most serious crimes.
Notably, the Hague-based ICC launched in 2018 a preliminary examination into the killings and human rights violations under Duterte’s drug war, which prompted Duterte to unilaterally withdraw the country’s membership from the Rome Statute that same year, which took effect a year later, on March 17, 2019. Said withdrawal did not, however, affect the ICC’s cognizance of the case.
It can be recalled that De Lima was one of the petitioners in the Supreme Court case, assailing the constitutionality of such a unilateral presidential action.
On May 16, 2018, De Lima and her co-petitioners, namely, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, then Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, and then Senators Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV, Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV and Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, questioned the ICC withdrawal before the SC, arguing that the Philippines’ withdrawal from the Rome Statute requires concurrence of at least 2/3 of the members of the Senate.
The SC, however, dismissed the petitions filed against Duterte’s decision to pull out of ICC sans the Senate’s concurrence for being “moot and academic.”
De Lima maintained that restoring the country’s membership in the ICC and continued status as a State-Party to the Rome Statute is crucial to ensure accountability for individuals responsible for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity when national courts are unable to do so.
“Our membership means a solid protection for all the Filipinos and is vital in upholding human rights of all persons, and the holding of public officials accountable to their abuses against the people they ought to serve,” she said. (30)