Trillanes says ICC treaty valid in PH
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV on Wednesday challenged President Rodrigo Duterte’s claim that the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC), was never enforced in the Philippines because it was not published in the official government journal.
On the last session day before Congress went on a Lenten break, Trillanes took to the floor to question Mr. Duterte’s decision to pull the Philippines out of the Rome Statute after the ICC began a preliminary examination of a complaint for crimes against humanity brought against the President and 11 of his officials over alleged extrajudicial killings in his brutal war on drugs.
Trillanes questioned the validity of Mr. Duterte’s assertion about the treaty’s effectivity a day after the President challenged lawyers’ contention that the Philippines’ withdrawal from the Rome Statute would not stop the ICC from investigating the killings.
Mr. Duterte had been saying the Rome Statute had no effect in the Philippines because it was never published in the Official Gazette.
“The treaty was not published. When it is not published, it is as if there is no law at all,” he said in a speech to mayors from the League of Municipalities of the Philippines on Tuesday.
Trillanes, in his privilege speech, cited Executive Order No. 459, signed on Jan. 9, 1998, by then President Fidel Ramos, which stated that “a treaty or executive agreement shall enter into force upon compliance with domestic requirements stated in that order.”
“Let me put into the record that nothing in the executive order showed there is a need for the treaty to be published in the Official Gazette,” he said.
Trillanes also said that unless two-thirds of the Senate voted to concur in Mr. Duterte’s decision to withdraw the Philippines from the Rome Statute, the withdrawal was “void.”
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III asked Trillanes on what he based his claim that withdrawal from a treaty required concurrence by the Senate.
“The Constitution is quite clear that we need the concurrence of two-thirds of the total number of senators to have the international agreements enter into force,” Trillanes said.
Pimentel agreed, but he said the Constitution had no provision requiring Senate concurrence for withdrawal from a treaty.
Trillanes said he agreed with the specific language of the Constitution, but noted that “if Senate concurrence is required in entering [into] treaties, then [by implication] the same concurrence is also needed in withdrawing.”
“We have a system of checks and balances in place and part of that is concurrence of the Senate so that it will remove the arbitrariness of any single branch of government,” he said.
Pimentel said the Rome Statute did not require the legislature of a state party to approve the state’s withdrawal from the treaty.
Trillanes argued that the requirement for concurrence was a domestic one but Pimentel countered that that
requirement was not in the Constitution.
The question will be decided by the Supreme Court when a challenge to Mr. Duterte’s withdrawal of the Philippines from the treaty is brought to the tribunal, Trillanes said.
The ICC said in a statement on Tuesday that it regretted Mr. Duterte’s move, but it stressed that the President’s decision would not affect the preliminary examination being carried out by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.
It cited a decision in the case of Burundi that said the ICC retained jurisdiction over crimes committed when a country was an ICC member even after withdrawal.
Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, however, said the government would not talk to ICC representatives who might want to come to the Philippines to try to change Mr. Duterte’s mind about withdrawing the Philippines from the Rome Statute.
“I don’t think the timing is right,” Cayetano told reporters on Tuesday before leaving for China for a four-day visit.
He also said the government would not reply to any communication from the ICC pertaining to its preliminary examination of the complaint against Mr. Duterte.
Cayetano was a member of the Senate that ratified the Rome Statute in 2011, but he insisted on Tuesday that the ICC had no jurisdiction over the Philippines because the treaty was never published in the Official Gazette.
More than 4,000 mostly poor drug suspects have been killed by the police since Mr. Duterte launched his campaign against illegal drugs in June 2016, although human rights groups have reported larger death tolls.
In his speech on Tuesday, Mr. Duterte said he had been investigated by the Commission on Human Rights and a UN special rapporteur for killings allegedly carried out by a death squad when he was mayor of Davao City, but no evidence was found against him. —With reports from Leila B. Salaverria, Donna Z. Pazzibugan and AP