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Miriam asks Senate to concur in ratification of Rome Statute

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Tuesday appealed to the Senate to approve the resolution concurring in the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). In her sponsorship speech, Santiago asked the chamber to approve Senate Resolution No. 546 which seeks to concur in the ratification of the Rome Statute, which was signed by President Benigno Aquino III last February 28. "The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court is arguably the most important institutional innovation since the founding of the United Nations. "The Statute is a benchmark in the progressive development of international human rights. I humbly recommend that this Senate should concur in the ratification of the Rome Statute," she said. The Rome Statute provides for the establishment of the ICC. Under the treaty, the ICC can step in when countries are unwilling or unable to dispense justice themselves for genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. The Philippines was one of the countries that drafted the treaty in 1998. Former Acting Permanent Representative to the United Nations Enrique Manalo signed it in December 2000 but it took 11 years for the President of the country to ratify the treaty. Santiago said the country even passed in 2009 Republic Act No. 9851 or the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity to "harmonize" Philippine law with the Statute. Article 7, Section 21 of the Philippine Constitution states that no treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred in by at least two-thirds of all members of the Senate. Reasons for concurrence Santiago said the Senate should concur in the ratification of the Statute because the country has a long-standing commitment to human rights and humanitarian law. She explained that the Philippines is already a party to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Geneva Convention, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, among others. The senator said that another reason to concur in the ratification of the treaty is that the ICC only punishes individuals unlike the International Court of Justice. "Thus, there is a shift away from state responsibility to individual criminal responsibility. The Rome Statute depoliticizes the enforcement of humanitarian law. It does not pass judgment on the states, its political ideology or group, or its army in conflict," she said. Santiago also said that since the Statute holds Filipino soldiers to "higher international standards" of military conduct, it will promote a sense of professionalism within the military and hopefully end the culture of impunity. She said that also among the other advantages of ratifying the Statute was that the country would qualify to nominate a Filipino as one of the judges of the ICC. "It will keep the Philippines abreast of contemporary developments in international relations. It will (also) put the Philippines in a better position to protect Filipinos overseas, when they might suffer crimes against humanity in pursuing work abroad," she said. — RSJ, GMA News