It has become an alibi of convenience by Rodrigo Duterte’s apologists in government, oft repeated a thousand times to transform it into Goebbelsian truth.
It has been said by Bongbong Marcos, Juan Ponce Enrile, Menardo Guevarra and the Office of the Solicitor General, Jesus Crispin Remulla, and under the Duterte administration by Karlo Nograles, Salvador Panelo, and of course by ex human rights lawyer Harry Roque. Senators who parrot the Duterte line but know next to nothing about international law are Jinggoy Estrada, Bato dela Rosa, Francis Tolentino, and last but not least Robinhood Padilla.
Of course, Rodrigo Duterte has said it a million times, sounding like he is assuaging himself of his own fears of Scheveningen prison. The reader with the fanatical bias for Duterte demagoguery but who is not hopeless for objectivity can go check all their statements through the links. But just imagine how these false statements were multiplied to infinity by Duterte troll algorithmic power.
There is only one way to demolish these silly attempts to lie and to reverse the truth – go back to the Supreme Court jurisprudence of July 2021.
Sitting en banc (meaning the case was heard before all the judges of the court), the high court gave its most definitive ruling on the ICC issue in GR 238875. The finer points of that decision were as follows:
“The president cannot unilaterally withdraw from a treaty if there is subsequent legislation which affirms and legislates it” (page 4). In this particular case, the Rome Statute and our membership in the International Criminal Court was approved by way of Senate concurrence. The president enjoys no unilateral authority to withdraw because the same condition exists – senate concurrence for withdrawal. Rodrigo Duterte did not fulfill this condition. “In sum, at no point and under no circumstances does the president enjoy unbridled authority to withdraw from treaties or international agreements” (page 56).
The second point, and perhaps the most important, that the Supreme Court pronounced is this precept: “Withdrawing from the Rome Statute does not discharge a state party from the obligations it has incurred as a member” (page 87).
“Even if it has deposited the instrument of withdrawal, it shall not be discharged from any criminal proceedings.”
“Until the withdrawal took effect on March 17, 2019, the Philippines was committed to meet its obligations under the Rome Statute. Any and all governmental acts up to March 17, 2019 may be taken cognizance of by the International Criminal Court.”
“Consequently, liability for the alleged summary killings and other atrocities committed in the course of the war on drugs is not nullified or negated here. The Philippines remained covered and bound by the Rome Statute until March 17, 2019” (page 88).
The high court deftly noted that Republic Act 9851, or the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity – signed into law by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2009 two years before the Senate concurred with the Rome Statute, “defines war crimes, genocide, and other crimes against humanity, as similarly characterized in the Rome Statute” (page 91).
And then it repeats, as if to highlight emphasis, the issue on “no jurisdiction” as wrong: “It has been opined that the principles of law in the Rome Statute are generally accepted principles of international law. The Philippines’ withdrawal from the Rome Statute would be a superfluity thus, ultimately ineffectual. The Philippines would remain bound by obligations expressed in the Rome Statute: Generally accepted principles of international law form part of Philippine laws even if they do not derive from treaty obligations of the Philippines” (page 99).
All fifteen justices of the Supreme Court signed. It was a powerful unanimous voice.
Dutertian impunity, the term coined by the human rights NGO Centerlaw (Harry Roque used to be a member), is a luxury of Duterte patronage. It is a ticket politicians use for their electoral advantage in 2028 when Sara Duterte aims to realize her naked ambition to be president. To endear themselves to the next political power for their self-preservation in 2028, they resort to fake news.
The SC decision has been bannered by media and jurist blogs in countries such as France, Singapore, United Arab Emirates and Persian Gulf countries, Malaysia, the USA and Canada, United Kingdom, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Australia, India.
The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.