Harry Roque to address ICC assembly on PH drug war

Pia Ranada
Harry Roque to address ICC assembly on PH drug war
The Presidential Spokesman might bring up the possibility of the Philippines withdrawing from the ICC in his December 7 speech

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque is set to give a speech in front of the parties to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Thursday, December 7 in New York.

Roque announced this on Tuesday, December 5, during a Malacañang press briefing.

“I’m scheduled to address the general debates on the 7th,” he told Palace reporters.

Roque will be attending the Assembly of State Parties, the ICC’s management oversight and legislative body composed of representatives of the states which have ratified or acceded to the Rome Statute.

Roque said he will likely give the Philippines’ position on when the ICC can intervene in domestic affairs, a touchy topic given calls for the ICC to try Duterte for crimes against humanity due to his controversial war against drugs.

Though not yet final, Roque said his statement will likely dwell on the principle of complementarity which parties to the Rome Statute, the treaty which created the ICC, agreed to.

“My statement is we agreed to be a member of the ICC because of the principle of complementarity that the court will only exercise jurisdiction if our courts are unwilling or unable to exercise jurisdiction on any crime cognizable by the International Criminal Court,” said Roque.

Any violation of this principle, said Roque, may lead the Philippines to consider withdrawal from the ICC, something Duterte has threatened to do in the past.

“To violate the principle of complementarity would be to violate the very basis of our consent to be bound by the Rome Statute and if this will happen, then there may be a possibility that the Philippines, like the 3 other African states, may withdraw from the Rome Statute of the ICC,” he said.

The 3 African countries he referred to are Burundi, Gambia, and South Africa, all of which withdrew from the ICC over the alleged bias of the court against small states. Gambia and South Africa, hovever, have already rescinded their withdrawal.

Roque, one of the few Asians qualified to serve as defense counsel before the ICC, also serves as Duterte’s adviser on human rights.

He had spoken in the past of the possibility of representing Duterte if a case against him is filed with the specialized international court.

Filipino lawyer Jude Sabio had filed a complaint against Duterte with the ICC in April for alleged “mass murder.”

Sabio cited the murder of at least 1,400 people by the alleged Davao Death Squad (DDS) when Duterte was Davao City mayor. He also mentioned the killing of at least 7,000 people in the Philippines under Duterte’s presidency.

Sabio is the lawyer of the self-confessed Davao Death Squad hitman Edgar Matobato who had alleged in Congress hearings that Duterte masterminded vigilante killings in Davao City as its mayor.

This will not be the first time Roque is attending the ICC Assembly of State Parties. Last year, he also attended as member of the House of Representatives.

The possibility of mentioning Philippines’ withdrawal from the ICC is an interesting turn of events for Roque, who, as former co-chairperson of the Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court, had called for the Philippines to ratify the Rome Statue and thus become a member of the ICC. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.