Press Release
August 26, 2011


Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, chair of the Senate foreign relations subcommittee on the International Criminal Court (ICC), today lauded Philippine membership to the International Criminal Court.

Speaking at a symposium sponsored by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Santiago said, "By joining the ICC, the Philippines has become a party to institutionalizing the Rule of Law in dealing with the perpetrators of international crimes enjoying impunity, while affirming their rights as accused before the ICC."

According to Santiago, this historical milestone is the fruit of the combined efforts of President Aquino's administration, the Senate, and NGOs which have lobbied the government to pass the Rome Statute of the ICC for more than a decade.

President Aquino ratified the Rome Statute last 28 February 2011, and endorsed it to the Senate for concurrence on 6 May 2011.

The Senate, voting 17-1, concurred in the ratification of the Rome Statute last 23 August 2011.

Prior to the Senate approval of the treaty, the DFA, the Department of National Defense, the Department of Justice, the Commission on Human Rights, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, and the National Security Council expressed their support for Philippine membership to the ICC.

The Rome Statute was also strongly endorsed by NGOs such as the Coalition for the International Criminal Court and the Parliamentarians for Global Action.

The country's human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International-Philippines, Ateneo Human Rights Center, Balay Rehabilitation Center, Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, and the Women's Legal Bureau have also lobbied the government to pass the Rome Statute.

Santiago said that "the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court is arguably the most important institutional innovation since the founding of the United Nations."

The ICC is a permanent court with the power to hold for trial and punish persons for the core crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.

"If a state becomes a party to the Rome Statute, any state leader could be investigated and prosecuted if he commits a core crime, particularly if he is the head of state, member of the national legislature, or government official at a similarly high level," Santiago said.

However, Santiago said that if the state is already investigating or prosecuting its own head of state or similar official, the ICC will not intervene. The Court will assume jurisdiction on the case only if the state is unwilling or unable to prosecute.

Santiago said the ICC recognizes the duty of every state to exercise its criminal jurisdiction over persons responsible for international crimes.

"The primacy of national jurisdiction will prevail at all times when the state authorities regularly perform their functions in investigation or prosecution. It is only in exceptional cases that the ICC will assume jurisdiction over and above that of national courts, specifically in cases of unwillingness or inability of the state to investigate or prosecute," she said.

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