By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora
“Irresponsible statements” that are “completely unfounded” may push the country to leave the International Criminal Court (ICC), Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay warned.
He stressed that “our membership to ICC was on the basis of consent that the Rome Statute is complementary to our laws.”
“You must remember that, ICC, our membership there by reason of our being a signatory to the Rome Stature has been done on the basis of consent,” he said in an interview with CNN Philippines.
“The consent being that we would like the Rome Statute to be complementary to our laws.”The Duterte administration has drawn a wave of international criticism for its drug war that has left more than 4,800 people dead.
According to Yasay, only where there are deficiencies or shortcomings in the country’s own system then “we can resort to that complementary aspect of the Rome Statute.”
“But you see our criminal justice system is working very effectively, very vigilantly,” he addded.
Under the circumstances, he asked why the ICC should say President Rodrigo Duterte is subject to prosecution under the Rome Statute.
“What is the basis for that?” he asked. “(In) our own law the President enjoys immunity. You can’t be prosecuted. And here it says without any basis at all and again the predicate of atrocity crimes in the Rome Statute will lead to genocide, killings on the basis of racial affiliation, religious affiliation and the like.”
Under the Rome Statute’s principle of “complementarity,” ICC serves as a last resort which could only assume jurisdiction in cases where a national government failed to address international crimes.
The jurisdiction of the ICC is only limited to four types of cases: war crimes, genocide, aggression and crimes against humanity.
Yasay, however, maintained that “you don’t see that here. When we have a war against drugs, we have a war against criminality.”
As a signatory to the Rome Statute, he stressed by that fact, it means that “we are strong against any form of atrocities and crimes of atrocity and we will continue to fight for that.”
When asked if the Philippines is ready to withdraw from the ICC, Yasay answered that “if they continue then the only option will be for us to withdraw because the basis upon which we signed and became member of the ICC is no longer being pursued.”
He shared that there are other nations not only the Philippines that have expressed doubts now, including Malaysia, Thailand and even Indonesia.
With countries like South Africa, Burundi and others expressing this kind of sentiment, Yasay said he hopes that the ICC officials will make sure of their statements and pronouncements.
“They should not come up with this kind of statement that will serve no other purpose but defeat the very purpose of ICC.”
Yasay also blasted as irresponsible UN Special Expert on UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials David Scheffer for putting the Philippines “on equal footing” with Syria and North Korea as well as the Islamic State terrorist group.
Last week, a United Nations-backed court in Cambodia upheld life sentences for crimes against humanity for two senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime, which was responsible for the death of up to two million Cambodians from 1975-1979.
David Scheffer, the UN Secretary-General’s envoy to the tribunal, said leaders in countries such as the Philippines, as well as the Islamic State (IS) group, must “take note” of the verdict.
But the DFA chief stressed the Philippines had stood up against the Khmer regime and even welcomed Cambodian refugees who came to the country.
Because of this statement, Yasay directed the UN permanent representative, Lourdes Yparraguirre, to come up with a note verbale “protesting in the strongest manner this irresponsible and arrogant statement of David.”