SC: Legal competence to argue ICC case not exclusive to De Lima
The Supreme Court on Tuesday said they could not find “circumstances and competencies” that would make Senator Leila De Lima the only person capable of defending the petition of the minority senators against the government’s withdrawal of membership from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“It is true that not all of her co-petitioners are lawyers who are equipped with technical competence to argue before courts. Still, it does not appear clearly to this Court why Senator De Lima—and no one else-must argue for their petition,” the high court said in a 16-page resolution made public Tuesday that denied De Lima’s plea to argue on behalf of the Senate.
De Lima, together with Senators Francis ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan, Franklin Drilon, Bam Aquino, Antonio Trillanes IV, Leila De Lima and Riza Hontiveros urged the high court to nullify the Duterte administration’s unilateral act of withdrawing from the ICC.
In their original plea filed last May 16, the opposition senators said that the country’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute “cannot be justified under the so-called ‘residual powers’ of the President.”
Likewise, they argued that the Constitution mandated the Senate to ratify a treaty or an international agreement, and as such, the Executive branch cannot just unilaterally repeal a law or withdraw from the treaty of international agreement.
De Lima, who is currently detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center urged the high court to allow her to argue on behalf of her colleagues.
But the high court said De Lima failed to mention an “exclusive competence” that will make her the only one from her co-petitioners to argue on the oral argument set on Aug. 28.
“Absent a specific allegation on Senator De Lima’s exclusive competence on the subject of their Petition, it is reasonable to assume that the other senator-lawyers joining her as petitioners are equally capable of skillfully and zealously arguing before this court,” the SC said.
The high court specifically mentioned Drilon, a former Justice Secretary, four-time senate president, minority, majority leader and a Bar examiner as well as Pangilinan, a third term Senator, majority leader, former representative to the Judicial and Bar Council and an author of laws related to the legal practice.
“Certainly, this court cannot overlook the legal competence, nay brilliance of Senators Drilon and Pangilinan,” the high court said.
It added that while litigants are free to choose their preferred counsel, “any such choice must content with contingencies that may impair the capacity of their selected counsel.”
“Thus, a litigant cannot insist on representation by a lawyer who has been suspended from the practice of law, has been disbarred or, as in Senator De Lima’s case, is incarcerated,” the high court added.
The high court also pointed out that they have no intention “to belittle Senator De Lima’s demonstrated expertise. Her record speaks for itself.”
But it maintained that the detained Senator’s capacity to appear for herself “must yield to the fundamental restrictions on her liberty borne by her current detention.”
It added that while it is true that individuals under preventive detention enjoy the presumption of innocence…nevertheless, the fact of their detention makes their rights more limited than those of the public.”
The oral argument on the case is set for Aug. 28.
Duterte announced the country’s withdrawal from the Statute last March citing the “baseless, unprecedented and outrageous attacks” against him and his administration over its anti-drug war that is being blamed for thousands of deaths. /ee
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.