By Kristine Joy Patag, March 25 2019, Philippine Star

Image Credit to Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines —  Solicitor General Jose Calida on Monday said that the Philippine government’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court has no adverse effect on our justice system.

The government’s chief lawyer stressed that the Philippine justice system functions independently from the international tribunal.

The government of President Rodrigo Duterte announced the country’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute—the treaty that ratified the ICC—last year. The country’s exit came after the international tribunal’s chief prosecutor launched a preliminary examination into alleged crimes against humanity of Duterte and his men over his brutal drug war.

The withdrawal became effective on March 17.

‘Courts are working’

“The investigation and prosecution of drug-related deaths, incidents, and/or offense are ongoing in the country,” the statement from the Office of the Solicitor General read.

Under the principle of complementarity in the Rome Statute, the ICC only acts when national courts are unable or unwilling to prosecute atrocities at home. Member states can challenge the “admissibility” of cases before the tribunal if they feel they can prosecute domestically.

Citing government data, Calida said that in 2018, there have been 49,034 drug-related cases filed before our courts, while 75,327 complaints are pending before public prosecutor’s offices.

SC petition on drug war

He also mentioned the pending petition seeking a halt order against the Duterte government’s memoranda on the drug war pending before the Supreme Court.

“All these facts show that the government is not unwilling or unable to prosecute these crimes, despite what administration critics say,” Calida said.

Petitioners against the drug war have asked the SC to be allowed access to police records of investigations into deaths linked to the crackdown on illegal narcotics.

But Calida said they are not entitled to drug war documents as their petitions do not cover nationwide alleged extra-judicial killings. He added that he complied with the SC order to yield the voluminous records “out of respect” to Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.

Calida added that our laws provide sufficient remedies to protect the fundamental rights of Filipinos. He pointed out that Republic Act 9851 or the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and other Crimes against Humanity “thoroughly encapsulates the purpose and intent of the Rome Statute.”

The communication filed before the ICC named Duterte—who is currently enjoying presidential immunity—as one of its respondents.

The government’s chief lawyer also said that the Philippines’ withdrawal does not have an effect on foreign aid to the country.

The Rome Statute is not the only instrument that provides remedies for the protection of human rights. Philippine laws sufficiently afford protection. The Philippines remain a party to other human rights treaties, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” he said.