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‘CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY’

Cayetano says ICC withdrawal meant for soldiers, policemen

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said President Duterte decided to withdraw the country’s ratification of the Rome Statute, the treaty that put up the International Criminal Court (ICC), not for himself but for the soldiers and policemen.

“To those who say that the President just does not want to be held liable, I say, ‘He’s not doing it for himself because we still have obligations during the time’ [the Philippines was a member of the ICC],” Cayetano said on Wednesday night.

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He said it was really for the soldiers and police who had been opposed to ratifying the Rome Statute in the first place since it could be used to charge them with crimes against humanity in the ongoing conflict with communist and Moro rebels.

Cayetano said Mr. Duterte must have also considered the country’s internal conflict “like what happened in Marawi” when he ordered the Philippines’ withdrawal from the ICC.

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Still under probe

The foreign secretary acknowledged that the President could still be investigated by ICC prosecutors for crimes against humanity he allegedly committed while the Philippines was under the tribunal’s jurisdiction.

“Even if we withdraw [from the ICC], our actions when we were a member are still covered,” Cayetano said.

On Wednesday, Mr. Duterte announced that the Philippines would withdraw the country’s ratification of the Rome Statute due to “outrageous” attacks on him by UN officials and violations of due process by the ICC.

The decision marks a stunning about-face by the President, who had repeatedly dared the ICC to indict him and said he was willing to “rot in jail” or go on trial to defend a war on drugs that has killed thousands.

The President had initially welcomed last month’s announcement by the ICC of its preliminary examination of a complaint filed by a Filipino lawyer accusing him and other officials of crimes against humanity.

System failure

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Cayetano said the ICC could investigate only if the Philippine judicial system had been shown to fail to investigate and prosecute those behind the thousands of extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations committed under the administration’s war on drugs.

He disclosed that the Philippines’ withdrawal from the statute had been discussed “informally” since Mr. Duterte assumed office.

The Rome Statute was adopted in Italy on July 17, 1998. It was only in 2011 that President Aquino submitted the treaty to the Senate, which ratified it on Aug. 23, 2011.

Right thing to do

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said on Thursday he was saddened by Mr. Duterte’s decision because he had lobbied for the ratification of the statute, but he believed the President did the right thing.

Roque accused ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of politicizing the case against the President, saying she should have junked the complaint outright, especially since she was aware that Philippine courts were still functioning.

In a television interview, Roque, whose specialty is international law, said the country’s withdrawal from the statute was the “beginning of the end of the court (ICC).”

Roque said other states could opt out of the ICC or decide not to join it because of the decision of the Philippines, which he said was viewed as a human rights champion.

Only Cambodia and Timor Leste would be left in the ICC from Southeast Asia after the Philippines leaves, he said.

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TAGS: Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, ICC, International Criminal Court, Philippine news updates
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