Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has called the Philippines’ unilateral withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a “self-serving” act that would weaken the Filipinos’ defense against foreign aggression and state-led abuses.
De Lima, a human rights and social justice champion, lamented that more than Mr. Duterte, the country’s unilateral withdrawal from ICC would greatly benefit foreign aggressors, especially China, to the detriment of the Philippines’ interests and 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,” she said in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 494.
“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,” she added.
The Philippines’ withdrawal from the Rome Statute took effect last March 17, which means that any future act of aggression by foreign countries and crimes against humanity committed by Duterte after March 17, 2019 can no longer be raised by the Philippines to the ICC.
Additionally, the ICC can only investigate summary executions carried out by policemen and vigilantes, upon Duterte’s directive, from June 30, 2016 to March 16, 2019 due to the said withdrawal.
Before March 17, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, along with a group of local fishermen, were able to file a communication before the ICC against Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Chinese officials for crimes committed in the disputed South China Sea (SCS).
While she lauded the move, De Lima was concerned that “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.”
De Lima said she is also alarmed that Duterte’s unilateral withdrawal from the country’s membership to the Rome Statute without the Senate’s concurrence might also prompt him to eventually withdraw from other significant treaties should issues affecting him arise.
“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?” she asked.
“In short, the grievously ill-advised and arbitrary unilateral withdrawal from the Rome Statute was a colossal blunder,” she added.
In 2018, De Lima sought the Supreme Court’s (SC) approval 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.
However, 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. During the oral argument in the said case, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio told Solicitor General Jose Calida that 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 upon its withdrawal from the Rome Statute.