Philippines Supreme Court dismisses petition against ICC withdrawal
© WikiMedia (Vincent van Zeijst)
Philippines Supreme Court dismisses petition against ICC withdrawal

The Philippines Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a petition questioning the legal validity of President Rodrigo Duterte’s unilateral withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2019, claiming that the issue had become “moot and academic.”

The Philippines officially withdrew from the ICC on March 17, 2019, a year after Duterte had publicly announced the nation’s withdrawal. The withdrawal was triggered by the ICC’s initiation of an investigation into the war on drugs in the Philippines. Duterte claimed that the ICC was being used a political tool against him and that officials, including ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, were biased.

In the wake of Duterte’s withdrawal, two separate petitions were filed. The first, filed in May 2018 by opposition party senators, argued that withdrawal from the Rome Statute (and the ICC by extension) requires a 2/3 majority concurrence in the Senate. The second petition, filed in June 2018 by the Philippine Coalition for the ICC, claimed that Duterte overstepped the powers of his office when he unilaterally withdrew, as “there was no basis in fact, law or jurisprudence.”

In Tuesday’s decision, Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F Leonen acknowledged that the power of the President to withdraw unilaterally from a treaty will be limited by conditions outlined in existing law or statute. However, according to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, while the Philippines Constitution provides for the requirement of a 2/3 Senate majority vote in ratifying a treaty, there is no similar specification for treaty withdrawal, vesting the power to do so in the President instead. Roque went on to urge the ICC to drop their aforementioned investigations,  claiming that the ICC no longer had any jurisdiction and that the Philippines had sufficient and effective legal systems in place domestically.

Tuesday’s judgment, which is yet to be released, is expected to issue further guidance on when a state can unilaterally withdraw from treaties.