Press Release
September 27, 2008

'Malacanang deliberately delaying endorsement of RP membership to International Criminal Court'-Kiko
"If they have nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear!"

Senate Majority Leader and judicial reform advocate Kiko Pangilinan today criticized the Executive's delay in endorsing the country's membership to the International Criminal Court (ICC) as "a deliberate, political move."

"Malacañang has been sitting on this since 2001. There is no other reason for such a setback. Filipinos urgently need this ratified especially since the Judiciary's integrity is being questioned. The Senate's hands are tied until the document is sent to us. The problem is: How long will we wait? More problematic is if we are waiting in vain. Halatang halatang sinasadya na nila ito. Halos walong taon na nilang inuupuan ang dokumento, na malamang ay inaamag na sa ngayon. Is the filing system in Malacañang so bad that documents remain buried this long?" Kiko asked.

The ICC was established in 2002 through an international treaty dubbed the Rome Statute. It was drafted in July of 1998 with the participation of the Philippines. Described as "a court of last resort," the ICC has jurisdiction over serious international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Its importance lies in its ability to complement and support national judicial systems more particularly when criminal proceedings (due to various influences) prevent the punishment of the guilty. The ICC is also mandated to take over when the national judicial system collapses.

Although former President Joseph Estrada signed the treaty in December of 2000, the Philippines is not considered an official State Party to the ICC since the document still has to be ratified by the Senate. Over the years, interest groups have urged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to submit the document to the Legislative Branch. Some speculate that her hesitance stems from the United States' decision not to join the ICC.

Leila de Lima, chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights, cited crimes related to ongoing hostilities in Mindanao as well as extra-judicial killings as primary reasons for the urgency to push for ICC membership. An alarming number of media practitioners, political activists and human rights defenders have been mercilessly killed or have mysteriously gone missing under the Arroyo Administration. Cases have remained unresolved amid speculations of government and military involvement.

"The ratification of the Rome Statute will result in the automatic incorporation and application of international laws. In other words, it will answer the lack of local laws, provisions, procedure and even venues for the apprehension, prosecution and punishment of those responsible for extra-judicial killings. This may just well be Malacanang's saving grace," Kiko emphasized.

News reports have pegged the number of activists and journalists killed since Arroyo assumed power in 2001 above 800. The government has consistently denied claims of human rights groups that it is tolerating the killings. However, amid the disturbing increase in the number of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines last year, the United Nations conducted an investigation and came up with a report that essentially blamed the government, particularly the Armed Forces of the Philippines, for the killing of activists and for "systematically hunting down" journalists and leaders of organizations critical of the government and the military.

"The chilling effect created by these unabated assaults on activists and journalists is not just an attack on the people's right to free speech but is also a blow on our rule of law and democracy. The authorities and the entire justice system need to step up their efforts fast to curb this unacceptable state of human rights in the country. Ano nga ba talaga ang pumipigil kay Pangulong Arroyo na ipasa sa Senado ang Rome Statute? Until the President endorses it, the public will keep making warranted or unwarranted assumptions about her motives to seemingly delay the ratification of the treaty. All it takes is for one order from her to stop this issue from getting worse. Give the people what they need�the power to be heard not only by local courts but also by an independent, international body that can dispense justice" Kiko said.

"If the government has nothing to hide, then it has nothing to fear," Kiko concluded.

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