Lawyers urge Duterte to re­main with ICC

Cebu Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - by Delta Dyrecka Leti­gio COR­RE­SPON­DENT

A GROUP of lawyers is urg­ing Pres­i­dent Duterte to re­con­sider his de- ci­sion of with­draw­ing from the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court (ICC) say­ing do­ing so would weaken the coun­try’s de­fenses against in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal threats.

The ap­peal was made as the third and fi­nal oral ar­gu­ments ques­tion­ing the va­lid­ity of the coun­try’s with­drawal from the ICC with­out con­cur-

rence of the Se­nate wrapped up last Oc­to­ber 9 at the Supreme Court (SC).

The Deputy Ex­ec­u­tive Chief of the Cen­ter for In­ter­na­tional Law in the Philip­pines (Cen­tral Law), Lawyer Gil­bert An­dres warned the pub­lic that bolt­ing from the ICC would leave the coun­try vul­ner­a­ble to hu­man rights abuses and im­punity.

Dur­ing the Jus­tice Fo­rum held Fri­day at the Univer­sity of San Jose-Reco­le­tos in Cebu City, An­dres re­counted to Law stu­dents the ar­gu­ments he pre­sented to the SC.

“The fact that the Philip­pines with­drew from the Rome statute will ac­tu­ally abol­ish our Filipino peo­ple’s par­al­lel means of en­forc­ing their rights to ef­fec­tive reme­dies against in­ter- na­tional crimes com­mit­ted not just by state forces and also com­mit­ted by armed groups,” said An­dres.

How­ever, Lawyer Ed­hel Pereira, the Philip­pine Na­tional Po­lice in Cen­tral Visayas (PNP-7) le­gal ser­vice head, ar­gued that the Philip­pines can still fight im­punity even with­out the ICC.

“Our jus­tice sys­tem in the Philip­pines is strong and as long as the gov­ern­ment is work­ing and the ju­di­ciary is work­ing, we can solve im­punity with­out the ICC,” said Pereira.

He also in­sisted that the coun­try re­mains peace­ful de­spite re­ports of crimes be­ing com­mit­ted here and there.

“Records show that we have re­duced crimes by 30 per­cent ,” he said said adding that the spate of killings in the Philip­pines are not con­sid­ered ex­tra­ju­di­cial but only ex­trale­gal since the per­pe­tra­tors are mostly non-state agents.

Threats

How­ever, Lawyer Emer­lynne Gil of the South­east Asia In­ter­na­tional Com­mis­sion of Jurists dis­agreed with Pereira say­ing the fail­ure of the gov­ern­ment to in­ves­ti­gate ex­trale­gal killings can be in­ter­preted as ac­qui­es­cence to the im­punity and will con­sti­tute the va­lid­ity of these cases as ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings.

“The right to life is the bedrock of hu­man rights. It can­not be vi­o­lated,” she said.

Gil said that as long the gov­ern­ment can show that they are not shield­ing per­pe­tra­tors, there are no un­jus­ti­fied de­lays in the cases of ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings and the courts are work­ing, the ICC no longer needs to in­ter­vene.

But Gil be­lieves that the Philip­pines should re­main with the ICC as it serves as an in­sur­ance for the coun­try in the case that the gov­ern­ment com­mits hu­man rights abuses and fails to pros­e­cute these abuses in its own ju­di­ciary.

An­dres, for his part, ad­mit­ted that even with the ICC, it will take years to solve hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions by the gov­ern­ment but the ICC he said, is an as­sur­ance that jus­tice will be made.

An­dres also ex­pressed con­fi­dence that the ar­gu­ments they pre­sented to the SC on Oc­to­ber 9 will hold ground, yet they are also pre­par­ing for other means in the case that the SC de­cides oth­er­wise. De­fense­less vs China

Dur­ing the third pre­sen­ta­tion of oral ar­gu­ments, Se­nior As­so­ciate Jus­tice An­to­nio Car­pio said that aside from be­ing vul­ner­a­ble to hu­man rights abuses, with­draw­ing from the ICC would weaken the coun­try’s stand against China.

Car­pio said if China chooses to in­vade any of the dis­puted is­lands and puts a naval base in Scar­bor­ough Shoal, the Philip­pines will not be able to sue Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and his mil­i­tary lead­ers with­out the ICC.

The SC has yet to de­cide whether the uni­lat­eral de­ci­sion of Pres­i­dent Duterte to with­draw the Philip­pines from the ICC with­out the con­cur­rence of the Se­nate is le­gal and ex­ecu­tory.

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