May 25, 2024

For the nth time, the International Criminal Court (ICC) of Justice has given notice it will investigate the alleged extrajudicial killings during the time of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. As soon as the notice was published, Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, one of the proponents of the past administration’s war on drugs, minced no words in castigating the agency, asking “Who you?” He was adamant in affirming that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the alleged acts that led to the death of so many drug lords, drug dependents, and drug users.
Is dela Rosa correct in his assessment?
The ICC is an international tribunal based in Hague, The Netherlands. The court has jurisdiction over crimes categorized as genocide (the deliberate extermination of a group of people due to ethnic, cultural or tribal disputes), war crimes, crimes of aggression, and crimes against humanity.
The ICC may also exercise jurisdiction over ordinary crimes provided that the country or territory where it shall exercise its jurisdiction submits voluntarily to this jurisdiction.
On March 17, 2018, the Philippines submitted with the ICC a written notification that is withdrawing its membership from the same.
Based on this, dela Rosa, who is obviously part of the investigation being conducted, insists that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the country. Besides, he invokes that the criminal justice system in the Philippines is working perfectly and therefore, there is no reason for the ICC to interfere. Any interference will be a violation of the country’s sovereignty.
The arguments advanced by dela Rosa are quite impressive. However, whether it will be given due course by the ICC is a matter that remains to be seen.
For one, the Philippines is a signatory to the Rome Statute (the treaty that created the ICC) since Nov. 1, 2011. The withdrawal by the Philippines on March 17, 2018 precedes the acts that are sought to be investigated. The alleged extrajudicial killings happened before March 17, 2018 and after Nov. 1, 2011. Thus, the withdrawal of the Philippines does not, per se, divest the ICC of its jurisdiction since when the withdrawal was consummated, the acts sought to be prosecuted already accrued. In short, the withdrawal has no retroactive effect. It does not cover acts that have already been done and accomplished.
Moreover, there is a Supreme Court opi-nion dated July 21, 2020 that the “government remains obliged to cooperate in criminal proceedings from the International Criminal Court even if it has withdrawn from the Rome Statute.”
This is because the membership of the Philippines in the ICC was by virtue of a treaty and the revocation of a treaty must be ratified by the required number of votes by Congress which, in the case of the country’ withdrawal, was not there.
Well, those who have been investigated by the ICC may opt to disregard whatever actions or findings the ICC may arrive at. After all, like all other international courts, the ICC has no enforcement power. An example is what is happening to our maritime dispute with China. Despite the decision of the ICC recognizing the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone over the West Philippine Sea, China continues to disregard this binding treaty and assert ownership, even threatening to go to war over it, just to make its point understood.