Duterte: Philippines withdrawing from International Criminal Court treaty

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A decision of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to pull his country out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) will encourage other states to follow the suit, marking "the beginning of the end" for the ICC, the spokesman of Duterte, Harry Roque, said Thursday.

The president also said United Nations special rapporteurs - likely referring to Agnes Callamard the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings - had been undertaking a "concerted effort" to paint him as a "ruthless and heartless" violator of human rights.

ACT Teachers Party Rep. Antonio Tinio however said Duterte is not yet off-the-hook on the investigation of the worldwide court even after he declared the withdrawal of the Philippines from the treaty.

Zeid demanded that the Human Rights Council, which counts the Philippines among its 47 member countries, "must take a strong position" on the issue, and insisted "these attacks can not go unanswered".

There is no investigation against Duterte, though ICC prosecutors are conducting a "preliminary examination", or review, of his government's war on drugs, in which thousands of alleged dealers have been killed.

Should the Philippines withdraw from the court it would not be the first to do so, as Burundi became the first nation to leave in October 2017.

In a letter addressed to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the government said it was pulling out of the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the ICC, which the Philippines ratified in 2011. Because you have shown that you can exercise your power without accountability.

They said Duterte's decision was an admission of guilt and a sign that he was panicking.

He also cited the supposed failure of the previous government to publish the treaty in the Official Gazette or newspaper of general circulation as a reason why it is "not effective nor enforceable" in the Philippines. "What we're saying is [the ICC] will not have juristidction over the President's person", he added. He dared the ICC to indict him.

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In a January report, Human Rights Watch said Duterte's "war on drugs" has led to the deaths of over 12,000 Filipinos, mostly urban poor.

The decision to withdraw was a "principled stand against those who politicize and weaponize human rights", the letter added.

"May I remind President Duterte that even if he declared the country's withdrawal from the treaty, it will not discharge our country of its obligations while it was still a party to the said agreement, " she said.

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 administration has many times denied hand in supposed summary killings.

"Violation of human rights will aggravate. Neither is it a crime of aggression or a crime against humanity", he said. China has called on the worldwide community to respect the Philippines' sovereignty on the issue.

Rep. Gary Alejano (PL, Magdalo), also a member of the opposition bloc, said Duterte's pronouncement "has no binding effect on the membership of the country (in the ICC)".

Under the treaty, withdrawal is only effective one year after a country gives written notice of its decision to the United Nations secretary-general.

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