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‘SC ruling also limits foreign policy power’

While Palace officials expectedly hailed the Supreme Court’s rejection of petitions challenging President Duterte’s withdrawal of the Philippines from the Rome Statute, the ruling also recognized the Senate’s power to restrain his foreign policy mandate, according to a Senate leader.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he was pleased that the tribunal “acknowledged the limitations on the power of the President as chief architect of foreign policy,” even though it dismissed the court filings, including one submitted by himself and his colleagues.

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The country’s highest court on Tuesday dismissed the petitions questioning the President’s decision in March 2018 to pull out from the Rome Statute, the founding document of the International Criminal Court (ICC), in March 2018. The withdrawal took effect one year later.

Mr. Duterte made the decision after he was accused of committing crimes against humanity in the ICC for his administration’s bloody war on drugs.

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In its ruling made public on Tuesday but whose full text was not yet released, the Supreme Court “acknowledged that the President, as primary architect of foreign policy, is subject to the Constitution and existing statutes.”

“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,” the court said.

Acknowledgment

The decision, according to Drilon, established a clear restraint on the President’s power to dictate international pacts.

“This is a clear recognition of the limitations of the power of the President with respect to foreign policy,” he said in a statement.

“Most striking is the acknowledgment that the power of the President to withdraw ‘unilaterally’ [from international agreements] can be subject to limitations by the Senate,” he said.

Drilon expressed his legal opinion as Palace officials hailed the Supreme Court ruling.

“The latest high court ruling, which is decided on mootness, acknowledges that the President is indeed the chief architect of this country’s foreign policy,” said presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr., who is also a lawyer.

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Roque called on ICC “not to waste time and resources on investigations that will not prosper as we do not recognize ICC jurisdiction over the Philippines, as well as in the face of uncontroverted proof that domestic legal and judicial processes are functioning normally in our country.”

Chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo argued that the decision recognizes the authority of the President to withdraw from treaties and international agreements.

‘Sole prerogative’

“As we have repeatedly articulated in many fora, such exercise is the sole prerogative vested by law upon the President as head of state and as the chief architect of our country’s foreign policy. “It is about time for foreign elements not to meddle in the affairs of our state and unchain their imperialist assault on our sovereignty,” Panelo added.

“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,” he said. Panelo added that the decision has no consequence to the President’s position that the ICC never acquired jurisdiction over the Philippines or its state officials since the Rome Statute was not published “in accordance with the demands of due process and the right to information.”

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