The Philippines may pull out its membership from the International Criminal Court (ICC) if it would not observe the “principle of complementarity,” which states that it will only exercise jurisdiction if a state is unwilling or unable to prosecute an official for serious crimes, Malacañang said on Tuesday.
“Although the statement has not been finalized, my statement is we agreed to be a member of the ICC because of the principle of complementarity that the court will only exercise jurisdiction if our courts are unwilling or unable to exercise jurisdiction on any crime cognizable by the International Criminal Court,” Palace spokesman Harry Roque said in a news conference.
“And to violate the principle of complementarity would be to violate the very basis of our consent to be bound by the Rome Statute. And if this will happen, then there may be a possibility that the Philippines, like the three other African states, may withdraw from the Rome Statute of the ICC,” he added.
Roque said he will be attending the Assembly of State Parties, the ICC’s management oversight and legislative body, on December 7 in New York, where he will likely give the Philippines’ position on when the ICC can intervene in domestic affairs, a touchy topic given calls for the ICC to try President Rodrigo Duterte for crimes against humanity over his controversial war on drugs.
“As you know, we are a party to the Rome Statute of the ICC and the statement that is still being finalized will focus on the principle of complementarity, which says that the court cannot exercise jurisdiction unless a specific act complained about has been acted upon by domestic institutions… There is unwillingness if there are reasons for the states not to prosecute when there’s a clear duty to prosecute and there is an inability if there is no state organ in existence to prosecute, such as in the case of failed states such as Somalia,” Roque said.
“Since we are not a Somalia, the issue is whether or not the ICC can take cognizance on any matter in the Philippines given that our courts–the only issue there is whether or not our courts are unwilling to prosecute a crime that is cognizable by the ICC,” he added.
Last March, Roque said the ICC does not have jurisdiction over possible criminal charges filed against Duterte for alleged extrajudicial killings.
He made the statement even before Jude Sabio, lawyer of confessed hitman Edgar Matobato, sued the President for crimes against humanity before the international court.
The case against Duterte before the ICC was filed amid the spate of killings linked to the government’s war on drugs.
The complaint alleged that Duterte and at least 11 senior government officials are liable for murder and calls for an investigation, arrest warrants and a trial.
It is the first time in the country’s history that a President has been accused of committing crimes against humanity.
Last June, Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th and Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano filed before the ICC a supplemental complaint against Duterte over his war on drugs.
But Duterte’s chief legal adviser has said Trillanes and Alejano’s supplemental complaint against Duterte was merely based on “hearsay and unsubstantiated allegations.”
“Their [Trillanes and Alejano] belated and remedial effort only goes to show that their initial complaint was based merely on hearsay and unsubstantiated allegations,” Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
Panelo was confident that the petition lodged by the two lawmakers would not prosper, saying the ICC is merely a “court of last resort.”