Remulla is correct about not rejoining the ICC

Philippines should stay out of the Rome Statute because the ICC has become an agency of oppression and harassment.

August 14, 2022

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla is right. The Philippines should not return to the wicked embrace of the International Criminal Court (ICC). It is patently against Philippine interests for Manila to do so.

The ICC was established by the so-called Rome Statute, an international convention adopted in Rome, Italy in July 1998, and which took effect in July 2002.

President Joseph Estrada signed the Rome Statute in 2000. In 2011, the Philippines ratified Estrada’s decision to include the country in the Statute.

Under the Rome Statute, the ICC is authorized to investigate certain criminal acts allegedly committed within the territorial jurisdiction of a country that is a signatory to the statute. That authority, however, is premised on the assumption that courts of the country concerned are closed or are manifestly incapable of dispensing justice.

Thus, the ICC cannot conduct any investigation in a country that is a signatory to the Rome Statute if the courts of that country are open and functioning. It logically follows that the ICC has no jurisdiction over a country that is not, or is no longer a part of the Rome Statute.

Back in 2018, the ICC received a one-sided report from Filipino politicians who opposed the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. The biased report claimed that police and military operatives of the Philippine government were indiscriminately killing innocent Filipinos in Duterte’s relentless war on local drug syndicates as well as drug pushers and users.

Eventually, the lawyer who prepared the one-sided report admitted in public that the accusations against President Duterte recited in the report were fabricated and politically motivated.

That disclosure notwithstanding, the ICC insisted on investigating the report, and on sending its investigators to the Philippines. It didn’t matter to the ICC that the report was manifestly baseless, and that the courts in the Philippines, including the country’s investigation and prosecution services, were open and functioning.

President Duterte protested the blatant intrusion by the ICC on Philippine sovereignty, and insisted that Philippine courts and the country’s justice system cannot be displaced by the ICC. The ICC, however, adamantly insisted on having its own way.

In March 2018, President Duterte withdrew the inclusion of the Philippines in the Rome Statute, and the withdrawal took effect a year later. As of March 2019, the Philippines is no longer included in the Rome Statute.

Since then, repeated attempts by the ICC to conduct an investigation within Philippine territory were opposed by President Duterte. He viewed the ICC’s planned investigation as an affront to Philippine sovereignty because the withdrawal of the Philippines from the Rome Statute effectively stripped the ICC of any jurisdiction whatsoever to operate in Philippine territory and to investigate Filipino officials.

Now that President Duterte has left office and has been succeeded by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., ex-Senator Leila de Lima, who is a known anti-Duterte and anti-Marcos personality, wants the Philippines to rejoin the Rome Statute.

Meanwhile, the ICC has reiterated its plan to carry out the investigation of the Philippine situation.

Last week, Justice Secretary Remulla announced that the Philippines under President Bongbong Marcos will not rejoin the Rome Statute precisely because Philippine courts and investigation and prosecution agencies are open and functioning.

Remulla also dismissed remarks that the Philippines will be an international outcast if it does not rejoin the Rome Statute. He pointed out that many developed countries including the United States, Russia and China are not signatories to the Statute.

In sum, Remulla is right in telling the world that the Philippines does not need the ICC because justice prevails in this country.

Accordingly, the Philippines should stay out of the Rome Statute because the ICC has become an agency of oppression and harassment. The nations the ICC investigates are those that it can bully, harass and intimidate. Public statements made by ICC officials clearly show their bias and predilections even before an investigation could begin.

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