Lawyers urge Duterte to remain with ICC
A GROUP of lawyers is urging President Duterte to reconsider his decision of withdrawing from the International Criminal Court (ICC) saying doing so would weaken the country’s defenses against internal and external threats.
The appeal was made as the third and final oral arguments questioning the validity of the country’s withdrawal from the ICC without concurrence of the Senate wrapped up last October 9 at the Supreme Court (SC).
The Deputy Executive Chief of the Center for International Law in the Philippines (Central Law), Lawyer Gilbert Andres warned the public that bolting from the ICC would leave the country vulnerable to human rights abuses and impunity.
During the Justice Forum held Friday at the University of San Jose-Recoletos in Cebu City, Andres recounted to Law students the arguments he presented to the SC.
“The fact that the Philippines withdrew from the Rome statute will actually abolish our Filipino people’s parallel means of enforcing their rights to effective remedies against international crimes committed not just by state forces and also committed by armed groups,” said Andres.
However, Lawyer Edhel Pereira, the Philippine National Police in Central Visayas (PNP-7) legal service head, argued that the Philippines can still fight impunity even without the ICC.
“Our justice system in the Philippines is strong and as long as the government is working and the judiciary is working, we can solve impunity without the ICC,” said Pereira.
He also insisted that the country remains peaceful despite reports of crimes being committed here and there.
“Records show that we have reduced crimes by 30 percent,” he said said adding that the spate of killings in the Philippines are not considered extrajudicial but only extralegal since the perpetrators are mostly non-state agents.
However, Lawyer Emerlynne Gil of the Southeast Asia International Commission of Jurists disagreed with Pereira saying the failure of the government to investigate extralegal killings can be interpreted as acquiescence to the impunity and will constitute the validity of these cases as extrajudicial killings.
“The right to life is the bedrock of human rights. It cannot be violated,” she said.
Gil said that as long the government can show that they are not shielding perpetrators, there are no unjustified delays in the cases of extrajudicial killings and the courts are working, the ICC no longer needs to intervene.
But Gil believes that the Philippines should remain with the ICC as it serves as an insurance for the country in the case that the government commits human rights abuses and fails to prosecute these abuses in its own judiciary.
Andres, for his part, admitted that even with the ICC, it will take years to solve human rights violations by the government but the ICC he said, is an assurance that justice will be made.
Andres also expressed confidence that the arguments they presented to the SC on October 9 will hold ground, yet they are also preparing for other means in the case that the SC decides otherwise.
Defenseless vs China
During the third presentation of oral arguments, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said that aside from being vulnerable to human rights abuses, withdrawing from the ICC would weaken the country’s stand against China.
Carpio said if China chooses to invade any of the disputed islands and puts a naval base in Scarborough Shoal, the Philippines will not be able to sue President Xi Jinping and his military leaders without the ICC.
The SC has yet to decide whether the unilateral decision of President Duterte to withdraw the Philippines from the ICC without the concurrence of the Senate is legal and executory.
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