Tribunal upholds Philippine withdrawal from ICC

PHILSTAR

THE Philippine Supreme Court has upheld government withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) after it started a probe of alleged human rights violations under President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

In a unanimous decision written by Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen, the tribunal rejected a lawsuit questioning the withdrawal for being moot, it said in a statement on Tuesday.

Mr. Duterte canceled Philippine membership in the ICC in March 2018 after the court, which probes states that fail to act on crimes, said it was investigating thousands of police killings under his war on drugs.

Human rights groups have accused the tough-talking leader of inciting police to murder drug suspects. Police have blamed the killings on suspects who allegedly resisted arrest.

More than half of thousands of police anti-drug operations violated rules of engagement, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told the United Nations Human Rights Council last month.

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Still, he said the government rejects any attempts by the international community to meddle in Philippine affairs.

The Supreme Court said the President as the primary architect of foreign policy is subject to the Constitution and other laws.

His power to withdraw unilaterally could be limited by the conditions for Senate concurrence or when there is an existing law that authorizes the negotiation of a treaty or international agreement, it added.

At a hearing in October 2018, Solicitor General Jose Calida said the withdrawal from the ICC is a presidential prerogative and a political question. He also argued the withdrawal had taken effect after the government delivered a note verbale to the United Nations secretary general.

The Supreme Court noted that the Judiciary “has enough powers to protect human rights,” contrary to speculations raised by six senators who filed the lawsuit, according to the statement. — Norman P. Aquino and Bianca Angelica D. Anago

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