Philippines drugs war: Duterte to withdraw from ICC

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano gestures as he gave a previlege speech at the Session Hall in Senate of the Philippines in Pasay City on Monday

But according to Mr Duterte's spokesman, Harry Roque, that examination "violates the very fundamental basis by which we gave our consent to be bound by the ICC". He also cited the supposed failure of the previous government to publish the treaty in the Official Gazette or newspaper of general circulation as reason why it is "not effective nor enforceable" in the Philippines.

Is Duterte afraid of the ICC? "The day of reckoning is near", he added.

ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the court would be looking at reports of extrajudicial killings.

The ICC's preliminary examination into the complaint seeks to establish whether crimes have taken place.

Philippine officials had initially said in February that the country was ready to cooperate but asked for fairness.

Hontiveros explained that President Duterte's so-called declaration of the Philippines' withdrawal from the Rome Statute has no effect whatsoever on the ICC's criminal examination of the complaint filed against him.

Article 127 of the Rome Statute states that "the withdrawal shall take effect one year after the date of receipt of the notification, unless the notification specifies a later date".

Duterte, known for his tough language, previously said he was ready to face the ICC and answer all the allegations against him.

Almost 4,000 drug suspects have been killed in legitimate drug operations since Duterte assumed office over a year ago.

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"We are mindful of the zealous intention of the complainant to eliminate the illegal drug menace prevalent in our country today, and it is public knowledge that this fight has taken numerous lives", a Department of Justice panel said in a ruling seen by Reuters, dated Dec 20 past year, but not made public.

Roque, meanwhile, said while he was among the members of civil society to push for the Philippine ratification of the statute, he now agrees with the position of the President.

The prosecutor's analysis of "drug war" crimes could result in a formal ICC investigation if there is proof violations amount to crimes against humanity, and the absence of justice in national courts.

But Roque has also said the ICC has no jurisdiction over the case because the tribunal was intended as a "court of last resort" and the Philippine courts were fully functioning.

The Philippines comes under its jurisdiction because it is a member, and pulling out can not affect jurisdiction retroactively.

Created in 1998 through the Rome Statute, the ICC has jurisdiction over 124 of its members, including the Philippines.

Commission on Human Rights chief Chito Gascon said the Philippines has historically been at the forefront of the fight for global justice, but Duterte's decision "constitutes a reversal that will be viewed as encouraging impunity to continue".

"The President's claim that we embraced membership in the ICC on false representations of complementarity by its global proponents is erroneous".

The ICC is the first permanent institution having power to exercise jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes of global concern such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression, and is seen to help end impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes.

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