SC sets oral arguments on PH withdrawal from ICC on July 24

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 5) — Oral arguments on a petition by Opposition senators to stop the country's withdrawal from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC)  was set by the Supreme Court on July 24.

Supreme Court Spokesman Teodoro Te said the decision was  reached by the justices in an en banc session Tuesday.  The High Court also ordered Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Philippine Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Teodoro Locsin, and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo to comment on the petition within ten days of notice.

Six senators -- the Liberal Party's Francis Pangilinan, Franklin Drilon, Bam Aquino, and Leila de Lima, Akbayan Party's Risa Hontiveros,  and  Antonio Trillanes of the Nacionalista Party -- filed the petition on May 16.

In the petition, they asked the SC to "declare as invalid and ineffective the withdrawal of the Philippines from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court without the concurrence of at least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate."

They said the government should inform the UN that it was canceling or revoking the instrument of withdrawal from the ICC "for being inconsistent with Philippine law."

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.

The Philippines signed the Rome Statute of the ICC in 2000 and ratified it in 2011, becoming its 117th State Party.

Withdrawing from the ICC

On March 14, President Rodrigo Duterte said the country would  withdraw from the ICC "effective immediately," slamming efforts to use the organization "as a political tool against the Philippines."

The ICC is looking into the government's drug war after Jude Sabio filed a communication before it  in April 2017.  Sabio is the lawyer of self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato who had testified in the Senate of killing people in Davao City on orders of then-Mayor Duterte.

Sabio accused Duterte of "repeatedly, unchangingly, and continuously" committing mass murder. He said 1,400 individuals were killed by the so-called Davao Death Squad headed by Duterte, and 7,000 others were killed in the government's war on drugs since Duterte became President.

The ICC earlier clarified the preliminary examination was not an investigation but a process to see if there was basis to proceed with a probe.

The President initially welcomed the ICC probe and said he would speak to an ICC representative one-on-one.

He later changed his tune, accusing the UN and ICC of violating due process and the constitutional presumption of innocence.

Duterte stressed that the Rome Statute was neither effective nor enforceable in the Philippines since it had not been published in the Official Gazette as instructed by the New Civil Code.

Locsin delivered the government's letter of withdrawal to UN Chef de Cabinet Maria Luiza Viotti on March 15.

According to Article 127 of the Rome Statute, however,  "a state may, by written notification addressed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, withdraw from this Statute. The withdrawal shall take effect one year after the date of receipt of the notification, unless the notification specifies a later date."

It added that a state party's withdrawal should not affect its cooperation with the Court on criminal investigations and proceedings initiated prior to the effectivity of the state's withdrawal.