December 12, 2017, 9:07 am
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ICJ is not the proper solution

ONE of the news that struck me is about the filing of cases at the International Court of Justice by a group of Maranaoans in order to seek a P120-billion worth of payment in damages from the Philippine government for the destruction of Marawi City and alleged abuses of the military. In my opinion, this is understandable given the almost dragging progress of military operations neutralizing the Maute IS group. However, although the sentiments espoused by our Maranao brothers and sisters are valid, invoking the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice is not the proper solution that the current situation calls for. 

First and foremost, the Government cannot be said to be causing injury to anyone whenever it is engaged in the discharge of its duties and exercise of its valid right. It is a fundamental principle in all jurisdictions that the State has the inherent right to self-preservation. Thus, in view of the imminent threats and dangers of invasion exhibited by the IS-inspired rebel and terror Maute group, the Government is justified in deploying military forces and using means and resources necessary to thwart these lawless and violent entities seeking to sow terror and destruction in the country. 

Noteworthy as well that this measure is also in furtherance of its duty to safeguard peace and the welfare, not just of the inhabitants of the Marawi City, but of all Filipino people. Let us recognize the fact that the Government and the military have to do what has to be done instead of just waiting and allowing these lawless entities spread atrocities all over our country.

Consequently, in the exercise of a valid right and discharge of a duty enjoined by law, no matter how unfortunate it may seem, the State cannot be considered to be injuring any person that would entitle the latter to sue it for damages.

Meanwhile, assuming that there is a cause of action against the Government and the AFP, the proposed lawsuit is not cognizable by the International Court of Justice. Pursuant to the Charter of United Nations that established said court, it has only two types of jurisdiction – contentious and advisory jurisdictions. Under its contentious jurisdiction, the Court may only decide disputes submitted to it by States, which are the only ones permitted to apply to and appear before it. International organizations, other collectivities, and private persons are not entitled to institute proceedings before the Court. On the other hand, the Court’s advisory jurisdiction, which may be invoked by international organizations, allows it to give opinions based on contentious proceedings. However, such opinions have no binding effect, unless otherwise stipulated by the involved parties beforehand. 

Thus, given the limited character of the International Court of Justice’s jurisdiction, It is apparent that the planned filing of a damage suit before said international court may not even be countenanced in the first place.

Finally, elevating a cause of action to the international arena, without exhausting first all such remedies available to the claimant provided for by the Philippine’s municipal law, is but an abrogation of the fundamental principle of exhaustion of remedies and an insult to our independence as a State. Apart from according respect and deference to our administrative and judicial processes, we should not allow interference by the International Court of Justice – or any foreign entity – especially on matters covered, cognizable, and provided for by our very own and independent justice system. – JOSE M. BUQUELA, jmbuquela@outlook.com
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