Philippines gives official notice of International Criminal Court withdrawal

Women protest against President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to set up a Revolutionary Government in Manila Philippines last year. Reuters

Duterte spokesman Harry Roque said local authorities will investigate crimes and that there is no need for ICC involvement.

On the ICC's call for the Philippines not to leave the court, Roque said in an interview on GMA7's morning show, "Too late po, parang naka-alis na po ang tren [sa istasyon] (It's too late, the train has already left [the station])".

Mr Duterte's opponents accused him of flip-flopping, pointing out that he had repeatedly dared the ICC to indict him and said he would "rot in jail" to defend a war on drugs during which police have killed thousands of people.

But he soon changed his tune, telling security forces not to cooperate in any global investigation, and that "not in a million years" would the ICC have jurisdiction.

A day after the president's announcement, the country's Catholic bishops said Duterte can not just set aside the Philippines' commitment to human rights.

The Philippines has formally sent a letter of withdrawal from the Rome Statute, the treaty that governs the International Criminal Court (ICC).

ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the court would be looking at reports of extrajudicial killings.

Duterte also said that the accusations and statements of United Nations (UN) special rapporteur Agnes Callamard and the High Commissioner on Human Rights Zaid Ra'ad al-Hussein shows "international bias" and the refusal of global community to support the country's "legitimate efforts and self-determination, nation building and independence from foreign influence and control".

He said Burundi had also withdrawn from the ICC, while first world nations like the United States, Russia and China are non-members.

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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.

Roque reiterated that the ICC had no jurisdiction over Duterte.

"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.

"This campaign against President Duterte and the Philippines is being effectively carried out by elements who seek to undermine our government and who have successfully infiltrated the human-rights community and weaponized human-rights protection mechanisms to advance their goal of overthrowing our democratically installed government", Cayetano said.

Duterte also invoked presidential immunity from lawsuits, which he said prevents the ICC from investigating him while he is in office.

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 ICC in February began examining alleged crimes committed during the controversial anti-drugs crackdown.

Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga, however, said the Philippines is sovereign and independent and whoever commits a crime "should be tried here with our people".

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