SC junks challenge to Duterte’s ICC withdrawal

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    The Supreme Court yesterday dismissed for being “moot and academic” petitions questioning President Duterte’s unilateral decision to withdraw the country’s membership from the International Criminal Court, which has been looking into the government’s bloody war on drugs.

    “The decision acknowledged that the President, as primary architect of foreign policy, is subject to the Constitution and existing statute. Therefore, the power of the President to withdraw unilaterally can be limited by the conditions for concurrence by the Senate or when there is an existing law which authorizes the negotiation of a treaty or international agreement or when there is a statute that implements an existing treaty,” read a statement issued by the high court’s Public Information Office on the unanimous decision reached during yesterday’s en banc session.

    A copy of the decision has yet to be released.

    President Duterte cancelled the country’s ICC membership in March 2018 treaty after the international body announced it was conducting a preliminary examination into thousands of killings in the administration’s drug war.

    Senators questioned the President’s decision, which took effect a year later, and said it was illegal and done without Senate approval.

    The Supreme Court dismissed the legal challenge as “moot and academic” as it has already taken effect.

    It likewise noted that there were provisions in Republic Act 9851 or the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and other Crimes Against Humanity which were amended by the Rome Statute that established the ICC.

    “The court also noted that the judiciary has enough powers to protect human rights contrary to speculation raised by the petitioners,” the SC statement said.

    The first petition was filed by six opposition senators – Minority leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Francis Pangilinan, Risa Hontiveros, Leila de Lima, Antonio Trillanes IV and Bam Aquino. Another petition was filed by the Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court.

    The petitioners argued during the oral arguments in 2019 that Duterte does not have the exclusive authority to decide on treaties entered into by the country.

    They said the withdrawal from the Rome Statute needs the concurrence of the Senate since treaty-making power is a shared authority of the President and Senate.

    Named respondents in the petitions were then DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo.

    The country signed the Rome Statute in 2000 and ratified and endorsed it in 2011 during the time of Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

    Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said the SC decision should put to rest the debates on whether the President has the authority to withdraw from treaties and international agreements even without the concurrence of the Senate.

    “The ruling of the Supreme Court effectively upholds the validity and force of the withdrawal without the concurrence of the Senate. It should be clear to some members of the upper chamber of Congress that their participation in treaties or similar instruments is limited to their concurrence for ratification, and not for any other undertaking,” Panelo said. – With Jocelyn Montemayor