Press Release
April 26, 2016


Presidential candidate Miriam Defensor Santiago on Tuesday condemned the recent beheading of a Canadian hostage in Jolo, as she warned that the Philippines is reneging on its obligations under the Rome Statute by failing to bring to justice the Abu Sayyaf Group for war crimes.

Santiago, an elected judge of the International Criminal Court, said the Philippines, as state party to the Rome Statute, affirmed that "the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole must not go unpunished and that their effective prosecution must be ensured."

"I denounce the killing of John Ridsdel, one of the four hostages taken by the Abu Sayyaf Group in September 2015. This reprehensible act is considered a 'war crime' under international criminal law, and we are obliged to exert the full force of the law to bring the perpetrators to justice," the senator said.

She explained that the conflict between the government and the Abu Sayyaf is a 'non-international armed conflict,' as it is between the Philippines and a non-state actor, particularly a terrorist group. Punitive laws against war crimes apply in cases of non-international armed conflict.

Santiago said the Rome Statute Article 8, para. 2,m subpara. (f) provides that provisions on war crimes apply "to armed conflicts that take place in the territory of a state when there is protracted armed conflict by the governmental authorities and organized armed groups."

In cases of non-international armed conflict, "war crimes" are "acts committed against persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who has laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention or any other cause."

Under this definition, the Abu Sayyaf Group has committed several war crimes, including:

  • Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

  • Committing outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;

  • Taking of hostages; and

  • The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgement pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all judicial guarantees which are generally recognized as indispensable.

Santiago, a widely recognized expert in international law, said that the Philippines' failure to punish terrorist groups such as Abu Sayyaf contributes to the culture of impunity. "By allowing these terrorist acts to go unpunished, we embolden unlawful elements to commit more of these crimes," she said.

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