Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo shrugged off reports that the ICC may announce its decision to move its investigation on the drug war before March 17, the same day the Philippines’ withdrawal from the ICC takes effect.
“It does not matter to us because they have no jurisdiction over us. If they force itself to acquire jurisdiction, it only shows that from the very start talagang hindi dapat pumapasok diyan sa ICC (you should not join the ICC) because it’s violating its own provisions,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
It was lawyer Jude Sabio who floated the possibility that ICC may open an investigation before March 17 in a TV interview. He is the same lawyer who filed a communication before the ICC, accusing President Rodrigo R. Duterte of committing crimes against humanity.
Panelo, who is also Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, explained that Duterte’s decision to withdraw the Philippines’ ratification of the Rome Statute, a United Nations (UN) treaty that created the ICC in 2018, was meant to inform the ICC that it never had jurisdiction since the country was never a part of the ICC.
Duterte’s decision came after the ICC's Office of the Prosecutor bared in February 2018 that it would begin preliminary examination on the crimes against humanity linked to the administration’s drug war.
“We didn’t even withdraw. We said from the very beginning, we were not under its jurisdiction. That letter was only to inform them as a matter of courtesy that ‘excuse us, we have not been under your jurisdiction from the very start’,” Panelo said.
Citing Duterte, Panelo said international laws only become effective in the Philippines upon its publication in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation but failed to accomplish the legal required publication.
“As argued by the President, there is a requirement of publication and that was never published and hence there is no jurisdiction over his person and for that matter over any person in this country,” he added.
Moreover, Panelo, who described the Philippine justice system as “robust", said courts are willing and capable to investigate the President.
Panelo also cited the law stating that investigation by the ICC can only proceed when there is a preliminary investigation prior to the withdrawal.
However, he said the ICC only launched a preliminary examination, which was different from a preliminary investigation.
“We have been pointing out that the ICC itself has been violating their own provisions, because under the law you cannot proceed when… assuming that there is a withdrawal, because they are saying we can proceed with the investigation even if there is withdrawal,” Panelo said.
“But under the law it says that they can proceed only when there is a preliminary investigation prior to the withdrawal; but there was no preliminary investigation, there was only preliminary examination,” he added.