‘Duterte wants to be immune,’ groups say of PH withdrawal from Rome Statute

“He wants to be immune and act with impunity both under domestic law and under international law.”

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte announced the withdrawal of the Philippines from the Rome Statute effective immediately.

The Rome Statute is the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC is a permanent international tribunal aimed at prosecuting individuals accused of genocide and other serious international crimes, such as crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression. The Philippines signed the treaty on Aug. 30, 2011.

In his statement, Duterte said the withdrawal was because of “baseless, unprecedented and outrageous attacks” by United Nations officials, and what he said was an attempt by the ICC prosecutor to seek jurisdiction over him “in violation of due process and presumption of innocence.”

Last month, the ICC formally announced the preliminary examination into crimes allegedly committed by the Philippine government in the context of the “war on drugs” campaign. A complaint was filed last year accusing Duterte of mass murder resulting from his “war on drugs.”

Recently, Duterte earned the ire of UN officials with the inclusion of UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, in a petition prepared by the Justice department to declare 600 people as “terrorists.”

For Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), the withdrawal from ICC is “jumping the gun on his potential legal liability or responsibility.” “He wants to be immune and act with impunity both under domestic law and under international law.”

Olalia noted that the bases and protocol for the withdrawal are either premature, assumes a fact not established, conclusory or inapplicable. “They are patently self-serving and unilaterally rearranges the cosmos of international law and its principles.”

Human right alliance Karapatan was not surprised at all. “This is a classic Duterte move to cheat his way out of culpability and responsibility for all the rights violations systematically committed by him and his State forces,” the group said.

In a separate statement, Anakpawis Party-list Representative Ariel Casilao said Duterte “is consistent in criticizing international human rights bodies as defense mechanism while he is consciously laying the ground for an authoritarian rule.” He cited the charter change, the persecution and redbaiting against activists, moves for a national identification system, subpoena powers given to police, penalizing mass protests, among others.

Still, Casilao is confident that the ICC and the international community will not waver in looking into Duterte’s crimes, not only the “war on drugs” but also the war against the Moro people in Mindanao and the war against farmers, indigenous peoples and other rural-based sectors via Duterte’s counter-insurgency program. ()

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