Press Release
December 13, 2011


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago was elected judge of the International Criminal Court by the Assembly of States Parties at elections held Monday, 12 December at the United Nations, New York.

Santiago is the first Filipino and the first Asian from a developing state to serve as ICC judge, thus earning a place of honor for the Philippines in ICC history.

Together with five other new judges, Santiago will take her oath of office this March, but will not immediately assume her post in The Hague, Netherlands, until the ICC calls her to report for duty.

Thus, it is likely that Santiago will remain as a senator in the next six months or even longer, depending on when she is called to The Hague.

The senator said she expects to play an active role as a trial judge in the impeachment case against Chief Justice Renato Corona, and to urge her fellow senators to pass the Reproductive Health bill, of which she is the author and co-sponsor.

"This is a victory for the Philippines in the international legal community. The tribute belongs to President Benigno Aquino, who nominated me; foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario, who maximized his unerring generalship over all Philippine posts abroad; foreign affairs undersecretary Rafael Seguis, who was the campaign manager; and most of all to Ambassador Libran Cabactulan, the Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations, who was the model diplomat in networking with the UN ambassadors. All members of the Philippine mission (embassy) in New York did splendid field work," she said.

Santiago placed No. 1 in the first round of voting, followed by a candidate from Trinidad and Tobago.

At this writing, the second round and possibly other rounds still need to be conducted, in order to complete the number of six new judges.

The ICC has 120 states parties, of which 117 voted in the first round last Monday. The Philippines was No. 1 with 79 votes, the highest number. Trinidad and Tobago was No. 2, with 72 votes. The Philippine mission said that some of Santiago's votes may have been inadvertently invalidated, because of complex balloting rules.

ICC elections are extremely complicated, but the process this year was made simpler when the Coalition for the ICC commissioned an Independent Panel of Experts to assess the qualifications of candidates. In the assessment report, Santiago was rated "Qualified," while four other candidates were rated as "Unqualified."

Interviewed by radio stations early yesterday morning, Santiago said she was ready to resign as senator if the ICC officially calls her to report for work, but that she personally prefers to stay as long as possible in the Senate.

"I entered the campaign to try and bring honor to the Philippines. But at the same time, I would like to serve as long as possible in the Senate, because I was elected for a six-year term and I have only served for a little over a year," she said.

After she reports to The Hague, Santiago will serve a 9-year term.

"This victory means that in this region of the world, the Philippines stands as a champion of international humanitarian law, international human rights law, and the rule of international law in global affairs. It is a very tough personal challenge, but I have always liked challenges in my life," said Santiago, who ran for president in 1992 and placed a very close second, but was denied the right to continue her electoral protest after she was elected senator.

The ICC was established by a treaty called the Rome Statute, in the deliberations of which the Philippines took an active part. However, under American pressure, the Philippine administration at that time refused to ratify the Rome Statute.

After President Barack Obama was elected, he changed American foreign policy by announcing a new policy of "principled engagement" with the ICC.

Following Obama's policy change, the Philippine Senate, on the sponsorship of Santiago, voted overwhelmingly to ratify the Rome Statute. President Aquino immediately nominated her as judge.

In the past, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo similarly nominated Santiago as judge of the older court known as the International Court of Justice. But although Santiago won in the General Assembly voting, she lost in the Security Council voting.

Santiago's prior candidacy to the ICJ was blocked by the US, because of her stand against the Visiting Forces Agreement; China, because of her close friendship with the Dalai Lama; and Japan, because of her efforts to amend certain provisions of the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) to favor Philippine nurses.



ICC Fact Sheet from the Office of Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago.


From the Office of Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago

A treaty known as the Rome Statute provides for the creation of an International Criminal Court. The Rome Statute is complex and detailed. It gives power to the ICC to try and punish for the most serious violations of human rights, in cases when international justice systems fail in the task.

The two most important international courts are: the new ICC; and the old International Court of Justice (ICJ). Both courts sit in The Hague. The difference is that the ICC provides for prosecution and punishment of individuals. By contrast, the ICJ litigates issues between states, such as international boundaries and fishing zones.

The ICC has jurisdiction over four categories of crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and aggression. The Rome Statute describes these four crimes as "unimaginable atrocities that deeply shock the conscience of humanity." The States Parties describe themselves as "determined to put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes and thus to contribute to the prevention of such crimes."

The ICC is concerned only with "the most serious crimes" and with the most serious criminals, generally leaders, organizers, and instigators. It does not bring to trial low-level offenders because of budgetary constraints.

In general, the ICC will try crimes only if they are part of a "widespread or systematic attack" or "when committed as a part of a plan or policy or as part of a large-scale commission of such crimes."

The 18 judges of the Court are elected by the Assembly of States Parties. Judges are required to be of "high moral character, impartiality, and integrity."

There are two categories of candidates: those with criminal law experience; and those with international law experience, particularly international humanitarian law and human rights law.

During an election, there are two lists of candidates, one with the criminal law profile (List "A"), the other with international law profile (List "B"). Although Santiago qualified for both lists, the DFA chose to nominate her under List "B".

During the elections, the States Parties are required to take into account the following factors: representation of the principal legal systems of the world; equitable geographic representation; fair representation of female and male judges; and legal expertise on specific issues such as violence against women or children.

Successful individual candidates are required to obtain a two-thirds majority of States Parties present, with an absolute majority of States Parties to constitute a quorum.

At the first elections in 2003, after the initial ballot, the election process took an entire week.

The term for each judge is nine years, without reelection. This requirement is intended to ensure impartiality. It has been said that international judges are an expensive proposition. They draw high salaries and incur other significant expenses.

The ICC rules require that 9 out of 18 judges will work full-time. Full-time judges are not allowed to engage in any other occupation of a professional nature. All judges, including those who do not work full-time, are forbidden from activities "likely to interfere with their judicial functions or to affect confidence in their independence."

However, these rules might be changed during the present Assembly of States Parties, which will take place on December 12 to 21.

News Latest News Feed