Dispatch from Crame No. 494: Sen. Leila M. de Lima’s statement on why the withdrawal from the Rome Statute is a huge mistake


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The filing with the ICC of a communication against China’s acts of aggression in the West Philippine Sea by former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales clearly and unmistakably shows that the Philippines’ withdrawal from the Rome Statute is a huge mistake.

Until March 17, 2019, the Philippines could raise any act of aggression, assaults against humanity and other heinous crimes of international concern committed by a foreign power such as China to the ICC, the Philippines until then being a state party to the Rome Statute. This is precisely what was achieved by Del Rosario and Morales when they filed the communication against China few days before said date.

However, with the effectivity of the Philippines’ withdrawal from the ICC on March 17, 2019, it now becomes doubtful if the Philippines can still go to the ICC to assail a foreign power’s acts of aggression committed after said withdrawal.

During the Supreme Court oral arguments in the case filed by the minority Senators questioning the constitutionality of the Philippine withdrawal without the Senate’s concurrence, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio raised this issue with Solicitor General Jose Calida. Justice Carpio asseverates that in the future, the Philippines might find itself in a very difficult situation since it would be without recourse to the ICC from acts of aggression of a foreign power if it withdraws from the Rome Statute.

China’s acts of aggression complained of in Del Rosario’s and Morales’s ICC communication definitely will not be the last to be committed by a foreign country or leader against the Philippines and Filipino citizens. Unfortunately, any future act of aggression by any foreign country committed after March 17, 2019 can no longer be raised by the Philippines to the ICC because of its withdrawal from the Rome Statute.

More than Duterte, who remains to be covered by the ICC preliminary examination for crimes against humanity committed before March 17, 2019, the Philippines’ withdrawal seems to have also benefitted foreign aggressors, to the detriment of the Philippines’ interests and national security.

Duterte’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute becomes nothing more than a self-serving act that also favored his Chinese patron, with the Philippines as the major loser. Because as sure as anything, Duterte will continue to commit crimes against humanity on his countrymen, and China will continue to commit acts of aggression against Filipino fisherfolks beyond March 17, 2019. The Philippines has just been stripped naked of ICC protection from both.

Another point. With the now emboldened President Duterte, whose unilateral act of withdrawing sans Senate concurrence was left unchecked by the Supreme Court, what would prevent him now from likewise withdrawing, whimsically and capriciously as he did as to the Rome Statute, from other major treaties like the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty?

In short, the grievously ill-advised and arbitrary unilateral withdrawal from the Rome Statute was a colossal blunder. ###

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