DFA chief: ICC weaponizes human rights to defend illegal drug trade

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 18) —   Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro "Teddy Boy" Locsin Jr. stood by the government's decision to leave the International Criminal Court (ICC), which officially took effect Sunday.

Locsin on Monday said the decision to pullout of the ICC was not an easy one-but it had to be done as the tribunal has been allegedly defending the drug trade.

"When the ICC weaponized human rights to defend the drug trade, we got out pronto," Locsin said during an event at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Monday. "When we do these decisions, it's not easy and it's not simple."

President Rodrigo Duterte in March 2018 announced the country's pullout from the ICC-- following supposed attacks against him and his administration as well as the international court's attempt to put him under jurisdiction.

The case was filed by lawyer Jude Sabio, who also represents self-confessed 'Davao Death Squad' hitmen Edgar Matobato and Arturo Lascañas. Matobato and Lascañas had previously admitted to killing people in Davao City under Duterte's orders, when he was still city mayor.

Sabio in 2017 submitted to the ICC a 77-page document on the killings, formally called by the tribunal as a "communication." The lawyer likewise earlier said the ICC may launch an investigation into the government's drug war before the withdrawal.

Malacañang Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, in his own press briefing, downplayed the country's exit from the court. He said even local courts can get the job done in holding public officials accountable.

Panelo added ICC officials who will visit the country in an attempt to commence a probe may face deportation.

"They can come here as guests, visitors. Pero (But) any move that will be deemed as a violation of our laws, may problema sila doon (they'll have a problem with that)," the spokesman said Monday.

Locsin added the country only joined the ICC-despite the United States opposition-- so the late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago could be elected as a judge.

"We got into ICC to accommodate our beloved colleague, Miriam Defensor Santiago, who tragically never assumed her seat," the DFA chief bared.

PH withdrawal from ICC 'not a loss'

For his part, Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III said he does not see any negative effect regarding the country's pullout from the said tribunal.

"Meron na bang magandang nangyari na involved ang ICC? Meron na bang pangyayari na nakinabang ang Pinas? Wala," Sotto said.

[Translation: Was there anything good that happened involving the ICC? Was the country able to benefit from it? Nothing.]

Members of the opposition and some civil society groups on Sunday lambasted President Rodrigo Duterte for his decision to withdraw from the ICC.

The ICC, an intergovernmental organization that investigates cases of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes of aggression, was established by the Rome Statute, which was enforced in 2002.

Panelo earlier said the government will not assist the ICC in any probe as it has no jurisdiction over the country.

Malacañang insists that the Philippines was never under the ICC's jurisdiction to begin with. While the country ratified the Rome Statute that created the ICC, the administration said the government never published that in a newspaper or the official gazette, as required by law.