De Lima places trust on ex-Rep. Gutierrez as lawyer in ICC withdrawal debates

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Former Akbayan Partylist Rep. Barry Gutierrez III can very well represent her and her colleagues belonging to the Senate minority bloc in the oral arguments on the Philippines’ unilateral withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima made the statement after the Supreme Court (SC) junked the minority senators’ motion to allow her to argue on their petition questioning the legality of the government’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute.

“Atty. Gutierrez is a veteran of several oral arguments before the Court. His representation of progressive causes in cases before the Supreme Court has distinguished him as one of today’s staunchest defenders of freedom and human rights,” she said in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 372.

Gutierrez formally entered his appearance as counsel for De Lima and Senators Francis Pangilinan, Franklin Drilon, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Risa Hontiveros and Antonio Trillanes IV last Aug. 29.

It may be recalled that De Lima earlier sought the SC’s nod to allow her to personally appear and argue on the petition that she and her colleagues filed challenging the Philippines’ unilateral decision to withdraw from the ICC.

The SC junked the minority senators’ motion to allow De Lima to argue for the position of non-withdrawal from the Rome Statute, maintaining that the case will not be prejudiced if a lawyer other than De Lima argued their petition before the Court.

Last March, Mr. Duterte unilaterally ordered the country’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute after the ICC announced it would initiate a preliminary examination into charges of mass murder against him due to his bloody war on drugs.

The former justice secretary said she and her fellow senators believe that Gutierrez will be “more than able to articulate the senators’ opposition to Duterte’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute / ICC.”

In her dispatch from Crame No. 357, De Lima shared that the case is “very personal” to her since the President’s action reflects his hostility to the international human rights institutions and officials with whom she closely identifies with as former Commission on Human Rights Chairperson.

“I felt that in arguing this case before the Court, I would also be defending them [international human rights institutions and officials] and fighting for the cause that we all hold close to our hearts: human rights and human dignity,” she said.

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