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Aquino signs Rome statute of the Int’l Criminal Court

President Benigno Simeon Aquino III has signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and sent it to the Senate for concurrence. In a press statement, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said the President signed last Feb. 28 the Instrument of Ratification of the treaty providing for the establishment of the ICC. The Arroyo administration had failed to transmit the ratification instrument to the Senate, despite the upper chamber having had requested for it since 2006. The ICC, which began operating in 2002, is the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal. Under the treaty, the court can step in only when countries are unwilling or unable to dispense justice themselves for genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. Ochoa said the endorsement of the treaty for ratification sends a message to the international community that the Philippines is committed to upholding and protecting human rights. “Ratification of the Rome Statute enhances Philippine commitment to human rights and is our contribution to an effective international criminal justice system," Ochoa said. He added it complements Republic Act (RA) No. 9851, which enables the country on its own to prosecute international crimes and strengthens human rights’ enforcement. Envisioned to end impunity RA 9851 – or the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity – was signed into law in December 2009. It embodies the country’s commitment to rules on International Humanitarian Law. According to Ochoa, the ICC is the first permanent institution empowered to exercise jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes of international concerns such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression, adding that the court is envisioned to help end the impunity of perpetrators of these crimes. “It adopts the principle of complementarity that recognizes a State’s right to exercise jurisdiction over these crimes. Meaning, the ICC will only act if such State is unable or unwilling to carry out the investigation and prosecution of the crime," he explained. The Rome Statute adheres to the general principles of criminal law and exclusion of jurisdiction over persons under 18 years old, he added. Ratification recommended In a Sept. 2010 meeting convened by the Presidential Human Rights Commission, the Departments of Justice (DOJ), Foreign Affairs (DFA) and National Defense (DND) agreed to recommend to the President the ratification of the Rome Statute and its subsequent transmittal to the Senate for concurrence. The DFA has recommended the timely transmittal of the Rome Statute to the Senate in view of the visit of ICC President Sang-Hyun Song from March 7 to 8 in the country. The Philippines is one of the countries that drafted the 1998 treaty. Former Acting Permanent Representative to the United Nations Enrique Manalo signed it in December 2000. Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago earlier said that transmittal of the Rome Statute to the Senate would be the first true test of President Aquino before the international community. “It will be a bold move for the new Aquino administration to initiate the concurrence of the Rome Statute ahead of its ally the US," Santiago said. “The policy of Malacañang with regard to the Rome Statute has been in line with the position of the US," she added. “The US under the Bush administration did not ratify the Rome Statute. With new presidents leading both countries, we can expect expedience in the statute’s ratification." – MRT/KBK, GMA News