EDITORIAL: ICC tightens the noose

For lack of a better advice, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. recently announced the country’s disengagement from the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC). The decision was apparently in reaction to the court’s rejection of the country’s request to suspend the inquiry into the blood-stained drug war proudly pursued by the previous national leadership. 

In a nonchalant declaration, Marcos was straightforward in saying the country is “disengaging from any contact, from any communication with the ICC,” a statement that is expected to complicate the country’s standing in many UN bodies associated with the upholding of human rights, suppression of criminalities, and convicting violators of crimes against humanity.

While the naysayers will beat the drums in support of such government position, those in the know understand that such intent does not reduce the import of the ICC’s probe. Aside from an appeal pending before the court’s pre-trial chamber to reverse the ruling to allow the full investigation to proceed, a handful of non-government entities, a good number of them internationally recognized organizations, are asking for the continuation of the inquiry.

The tightening of the noose, in you will, goes to another level as the ICC, more aggressively than it was in the past, has recently shown its fangs by issuing an arrest warrant against Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president. The gesture reflects the tenacity of the people now comprising the ICC, and telegraphs a message that the international tribunal is willing to go to lengths in giving justice to people whose human rights are violated.

To say that the ICC’s probe is inappropriate given that the domestic courts are not functioning, is a feeble excuse. The truth is that local courts and their judges fall prey to the dangers of power plays executed by those who have resources and by those who hold the reins of power. Other than that, the number of corrupt judicial profiles in the judiciary, no matter how small, also impacts the way people value the independence and integrity of our justice system.

But the foremost question that comes to mind is if the ICC will also issue a warrant of arrest against those involved in the bloody anti-drug war during the Duterte watch. Given its track record of having convicted high-profile national leaders for committing crimes against humanity, the best answer is YES. Arresting suspects, however, is dependent on the political atmosphere of the place where the persons involved live. 

In the Philippine setting, the actual arrest can only be made or done if the sitting administration accedes to the process and the recipient of the warrant is a political adversary. Otherwise, the ICC has to wait until the next leaders, conscious of their commitment to the cause of human rights, are unfettered in their position to turn over the suspects.

Be that as it may, ICC’s future injunction, if and when the cases are resolved in favor of the victims of the drug war, can have long-term diplomatic, economic, labor, and trade consequences for the country. The failure to honor rulings arising from being a former signatory of the Rome Statute also reflects our inability to honor commitments.

It is not too late for the President to get the right advice. Having hired already a lawyer from London to handle the government case, he should be briefed that the appeal before the ICC has yet to be resolved. Sometimes—yes, sometimes—the sycophants within the President’s circle are to blame for many oversights he has committed.

Sri Chinmoy, an Indian spiritual leader, once said: “Ignorance is an enemy, even to its owner. Knowledge is a friend, even to its hater. Ignorance hates knowledge because it is too pure. Knowledge fears ignorance because it is too sure.”


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