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VERA FILES FACT CHECK: VP Sara echoes Marcos’ claim on ICC jurisdiction needs context

Vice President Sara Duterte echoes the claim of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that the International Criminal court has ceased to have jurisdiction over the Philippines.

VP Sara Duterte 2023-11-23 Needs context

The Rome Statute—the founding treaty of the ICC—provides that a state party is not exempt from its obligations for the duration of its membership even if it has withdrawn. The ICC retains jurisdiction over any crimes that occurred in the Philippines when it was still a state party from Nov. 1, 2011 to March 16, 2019.

Reacting to recent discussions in the House of Representatives about cooperating with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in its investigation of the previous administration’s war on drugs, Vice President Sara Duterte echoed claims on the ICC jurisdiction that lack context.

STATEMENT

In a Nov. 23 statement on her Facebook page, Duterte repeated a previous claim of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on the jurisdiction of ICC in the Philippines.

Duterte quoted Marcos as having said earlier this year:

“Any probe conducted by the ICC would be an intrusion into our internal matters, and a threat to our sovereignty… We are done talking with the ICC. Like what we have been saying from the beginning, we will not cooperate with them in any way, shape, or form.”

 

Source: Inday Sara Duterte Facebook page, STATEMENT BY VICE PRESIDENT SARA Z. DUTERTE, Nov. 23, 2023

The vice president also cited Marcos’ claim that “the ICC ceased to have jurisdiction over the Philippines” following its withdrawal from the Rome Statute in 2019. She went on to say:

“To allow ICC prosecutors to investigate alleged crimes that are now under the exclusive jurisdiction of our prosecutors and our Courts is not only patently unconstitutional but effectively belittles and degrades our legal institutions.”

VERA Files Fact Check had debunked similar claims of Marcos and other government officials. (Read VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Marcos’ claim on ICC jurisdiction needs context and Disinformation about ICC echoes Duterte’s defense, targets prosecutors)

FACT

Based on Paragraph 2, Article 127 of the Rome Statute—the founding treaty of the ICC—a state party is not exempt from its obligations for the duration of its membership even after it has withdrawn. Thus, the ICC retains jurisdiction over any crimes that occurred in the Philippines when it was still a state party from Nov. 1, 2011 to March 16, 2019.

VERA Files Fact Check: Reacting to recent discussions in the House of Representatives about cooperating with the ICC in its investigation of the previous administration’s war on drugs, Vice President Sara Duterte echoed claims on the ICC jurisdiction that lack context.

In a 15-0 decision in March 2021, the Supreme Court of the Philippines affirmed this obligation, saying that the country “remained covered and bound by the Rome Statute until March 17, 2019.”

The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I, in its September 2021 decision authorizing the launch of the drug war probe, said:

“This is in line with the law of treaties, which provides that withdrawal from a treaty does not affect any right, obligation or legal situation created through the execution of the treaty prior to its termination.”

On Jan. 26, the chamber granted the request of its prosecutor, Karim Khan, to resume the investigation into alleged crimes against humanity under the Duterte administration’s drug war from July 1, 2016 to March 16, 2019. The probe also covers extrajudicial killings and other related crimes in the Davao region from Nov. 1, 2011 to June 30, 2016.

BACKSTORY

The Philippines withdrew from the ICC in March 2018 in reaction to then-ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s launching of a preliminary examination into the drug war killings under the administration of the vice president’s father, Rodrigo Duterte. The country’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute took effect on March 17, 2019.

On Nov. 20, Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr., chair of the House Committee on Human Rights, and 1-Rider Rep. Ramon Rodrigo Gutierrez filed a resolution that urges relevant government agencies to cooperate with the ICC in its investigation.

Similar resolutions were filed by the Makabayan bloc led by ACT Rep. France Castro and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman. Deliberations on the resolutions began on Nov. 23 but were suspended to allow both the committees on justice and on human rights to invite resource persons.

On Nov. 24, while Marcos maintained his stance on ICC’s jurisdiction, he said that the Philippines’ possible return to the fold of the Netherlands-based tribunal is “under study.”

In response, Vice President Duterte said she respects the president’s decision but reiterated her position against cooperating with the ICC in its investigation.

 

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Sources

ICC official website, Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, accessed Nov 28, 2023

ICC official website, Decision on the Prosecutor’s request for authorisation of an investigation pursuant to Article 15(3) of the Statute, Sept. 15, 2021

Supreme Court of the Philippines E-library official website, G.R. No. 238875, March 16, 2021

ICC official website, Public Redacted Version of “Authorisation pursuant to article 18(2) of the Statute to resume the investigation”, Jan. 26, 2023

United Nations, Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court: Philippines Withdrawal, March 18, 2019

House of Representatives, House Resolution No. 1477, Nov. 20, 2023

House panels tackle calls for PH cooperation with ICC

Presidential Communications Office, PBBM reiterates ICC has no jurisdiction to conduct probe into former president Duterte’s war on drugs, Nov. 24, 2023

Sara Duterte respects BBM’s decision

 

(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)