VERA FILES FACT CHECK: The ICC HAS jurisdiction to investigate in PH

A Facebook (FB) post claimed that the International Criminal Court (ICC) cannot interfere and investigate deaths related to the drug war in the Philippines because President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. declared the country would not rejoin the ICC. This claim is false.

The ICC and the Supreme Court both ruled that the Hague-based court retains its jurisdiction to investigate crimes committed when the country was still a party to the Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding document. 

The incorrect claim appeared the same day Marcos announced his administration had no intention of rejoining the ICC.

FB page Paolo Duterte Supporters uploaded the false post on Aug. 1. Translated from Filipino, it read: “President Bongbong Marcos will not join the International Criminal Court! This means that the ICC cannot interfere or investigate here in the Philippines.” It also carried a link that redirected to an e-commerce site. 

The ICC’s landing page on the Philippines states:

“While the Philippines’ withdrawal from the Statute took effect on 17 March 2019, the Court retains jurisdiction with respect to alleged crimes that occurred on the territory of the Philippines while it was a State Party, from 1 November 2011 up to and including 16 March 2019.”

Former president Rodrigo Duterte formally withdrew the country from the Rome Statute in March 2018, which took effect a year later.

Meanwhile, in a March 16, 2021 decision penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen on a case filed by opposition senators who protested the Philippines’ unilateral withdrawal from the Rome Statute, the SC noted:

“…withdrawal from the Rome Statute does not affect the liabilities of individuals charged  before the International Criminal Court for acts committed up to this date (March 17, 2019).”

“Under ICC rules, even if the Philippines is no longer a party to the ICC, it has the duty to cooperate with the investigation as to the time when the Philippines was still a state party to the Rome Statute,” international law expert Romel Bagares also told VERA Files Fact Check in an email on Aug. 2.

This June, ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan requested the resumption of the preliminary investigation on the alleged crimes against humanity committed under Duterte’s war on drugs campaign. Khan agreed to temporarily suspend the probe last November 2021, following the Duterte administration’s request and assurance it would investigate the crimes locally.

Marcos’ position not to cooperate and rejoin the ICC will have a bearing on the progress of the ICC’s preliminary investigation, added Bagares, a professorial lecturer of international law at the Lyceum of the Philippines University and human rights law at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.

The lawyer warned the procedure would be stalled should the preliminary investigation be reopened and Khan finds sufficient basis to confirm the charges due to “lack of cooperation by the Philippines.”

“Without Philippine government cooperation, [an arrest warrant issued by the ICC] will have little chance of being enforced against a suspect,” he said.

The erroneous post garnered over 23,000 reactions, 2,000 comments, and 582 shares. Netizens who interacted with the post praised Marcos for his decision against rejoining the ICC and agreed that the ICC should not interfere with the Philippines’ affairs.

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(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)