Duterte Spokesman: Philippines' Withdrawal From ICC 'Beginning of End' for Court

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano gestures as he gave a previlege speech at the Session Hall in Senate of the Philippines in Pasay City on Monday

President Duterte on Wednesday declared the Philippines withdrawal from the ICC in a statement released to the members of the media.

Duterte's spokesman, Harry Roque, said the ICC was "siding with the enemies of the president", while Duterte's legal counsel Salvador Panelo said the accession to the Rome Statute in 2011 was never announced in the Philippines official gazette, thus did not apply.

The progressive lawmaker said the Statute also states that the withdrawal would not affect any cooperation with the Court in connection with criminal investigations and proceedings, and the withdrawing State's duty to cooperate in the said investigations which were commenced prior to the date on which the withdrawal became effective.

In February, the ICC launched a preliminary examination into Duterte's bloody war on drugs, criticized to have killed thousands of suspected drug peddlers, and have resulted to alleged extrajudicial killings, including of minors proven to be innocent.

"The Court encourages the Philippines to not follow through with the reported intention to withdraw, as it is an important State Party to the Rome Statute." the ICC said.

Apart from the alleged ICC's "politicization" of Duterte's drug war, Roque said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein's recent remark that Duterte should take a psychiatric test also contributed to the pulling out of the Philippines' membership from the Hague-based court.

The court said Manila's membership is essential in "strengthening the worldwide rule of law".

It's transformation into a potential rights-abusing pariah worthy of ICC indictment, regardless of eventual rulings or outcomes, will haunt Duterte's strongman legacy.

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"As stated earlier, the International Criminal Courts Special Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda gave a premature public announcement of a preliminary examination thereby creating the impression that I am likely to be charged before the International Criminal Court, violating, therefore, the presumption of innocence accorded me by the Constitution".

Cayetano said the withdrawal was formally conveyed in a note verbale that Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN Teodoro Locsin Jr. handed over to Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, the Chef de Cabinet of UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres, at 6:07 p.m.

There are now 123 parties to the ICC, including the Philippines.

President Duterte's latest pronouncement might have damned him more as he might have unwittingly displayed his guilt over the crimes he stands accused of, Hontiveros said.

Duterte had initially dared the ICC to indict him, saying he was willing to rot in jail to save Filipinos from drugs, which he says are destroying his country.

Lagman said Duterte "cannot overcome overwhelming evidence against him consisting of his own incriminating utterances of instigation and condonation, and unassailable records of extrajudicial killings consequent to his deadly war on drugs".

The withdrawal takes effect one year after the secretary-general receives notification, according to ICC rules. "Detaching from the Rome Statute is abandoning a global bastion for the protection of human rights", Lagman said.

"The acts allegedly committed by me are neither genocide nor war crimes", he continued.

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