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De Lima to Duterte: Leaving ICC needs Senate approval

Camille Elemia
The senator says it would also do well for President Duterte or advisers to consult with senators first before making decisions on matters of national and international importance

SENATE APPROVAL. Senator Leila de Lima tells President Rodrigo Duterte that he could not unilaterally withdraw from the International Criminal Court, saying the Senate has to approve it first.

MANILA, Philippines – Leaving the International Criminal Court (ICC) needs the Senate’s approval.

Senator Leila de Lima issued this reminder after President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to follow his “idol” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s exit from the ICC.

De Lima said the President, as the chief architect of the country’s foreign policy, should know that he cannot unilaterally withdraw from the international tribunal.

“It seems that President Duterte is blustering again when he announced his intent to withdraw from the Philippines’ membership to the International Criminal Court. He knows too well that he could not unilaterally rescind the country’s commitment to such an important international treaty without the concurrence of the Senate,” De Lima said in a statement.

Former President Benigno Aquino III signed the Rome Statue of the ICC on February 28, 2011. The Senate of the 15th Congress concurred in the ratification of the treaty in August 2011.

De Lima also advised Duterte and his advisers to seek the Senate’s opinion before publicizing such intentions,

“It would also do well for the President or his foreign policy and security advisers to consult with and get the consensus of the members of the Senate and even the public before making a very crucial decision on matters of national and international importance,” she said.

The ICC, which began operating in 2002, is the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal. Under the treaty, the court could step in only when countries are unwilling or unable to dispense justice themselves for crimes against humanity, genocide, or war crimes.

Duterte on Thursday expressed dissatisfaction with the tribunal, claiming it has not helped small countries like the Philippines wracked with violence and injustices.

Wala, inutil ‘yang International Criminal [Court]. Nag-withdraw sila sa membership. (The International Criminal Court is useless. [Russia] withdrew its membership). I might follow,” Duterte said on Thursday, November 17, referring to Russia.

International obligation

The senator, a former chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), said it is not right for the country to withdraw from the international court. The Philippines has the obligation to international conventions and agreements to promote and protect respect for human rights and dignity, she said.

“In a globalized world, the Philippines should continue to stand with the rest of the modern democratic countries in deterring the gravest violations of the basic human rights known to humankind from being committed by despotic leaders,” said De Lima, who has repeatedly slammed Duterte for being a potential dictator.

“It is his – and our – duty as a nation and as a people that the gravest crimes, such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, are not tolerated,” she added.

De Lima and the CHR earlier said Duterte might face charges of crimes against humanity before the ICC if the unexplained killings continue. It was De Lima who called for a Senate probe into the spate of extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration.

The ICC earlier said it is “closely watching” the Philippines’ war on drugs.

The court also expressed deep concern over “public statements of high officials” which “seem to condone such killings” and “encourage State forces and civilians” to kill drug suspects.

Malacañang, in response, denied that the state is sponsoring summary executions, citing the results of the Senate investigation, led by a Duterte ally, into the spate of extrajudicial killings. (READ: Senate ends probe: Neither Duterte nor state sponsored killings)

“Drug-related killings, including vigilante killings, are not state-sanctioned,” Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in October. –

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email