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Trillanes questions validity of Duterte’s decision to withdraw from ICC

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV questioned on Wednesday the validity of President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to withdraw as a state-party to the International Criminal Court and claim that the Rome Statute should be published in the Official Gazette.

Trillanes said Executive Order 459 providing guidelines in the negotiation of international agreements and its ratification, signed by former President Fidel Ramos in January 1998, does not state any condition that the treaty should be published.

“I question the validity of such a unilateral declaration…nothing in this EO showed there is a need for the treaty to be publicized in the Official Gazette,” he said in a privilege speech.

He also said the withdrawal is void because it was not concurred by the Senate.

“I would like to manifest that as long as the senators or 2/3 of the total number of senators have concurred with the withdrawal, such withdrawal of Duterte in [the] ICC is void from the start,” he said.

Check and balance

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III interpellated Trillanes, saying there is nothing in the Constitution that states the Senate needs to concur with the withdrawal.

“We should limit the use of the Constitution to the actual use. Senate concurrence is needed in the ratification so entering into treaties not in the withdrawal,” he said.

But Trillanes insisted that by implication if the Senate concurrence is required in entering in any international agreement, then it should follow that the same concurrence is needed in withdrawing for check and balance purposes.

“We have a system of checks and balance in place and part of that is the concurrence of the Senate so that it will remove the arbitrariness of any single branch of government,” he said.

Pimentel said there is a reason the framers of the Constitution did not state such.

“The framers wanted it that way, they would have very easily written that if that is the intention,” he said.

Trillanes said the Supreme Court will have to resolve the matter if a petition questioning the validity of the withdrawal will be filed before it.

He said the framers might have overlooked it as they have overlooked many provisions in the Constitution.

“That is why there is a clamor from certain sectors to amend the Constitution because of those oversights and I believe it is one of those. It is my position that withdrawal should be given as much weight as entering to such a treaty,” he said.

Pimentel said it is a dangerous to always assume that what a person wants to read in the Constitution was overlooked or omitted by the framers of the Charter. He added if it was not in the Constitution, it was intentionally omitted by the framers.

He said this is the reason PDP-Laban is spearheading the Charter change not only in the aspect of federalism but also granting the Senate more power or participation in the determination of foreign policy

“This is part of the constitutional reform that PDP- Laban is advocating because our interpretation is that the Philippine Senate currently has very limited participation in foreign relations, in foreign policy because it is limited to concurrence in treaties already entered into by the executive, headed by the President,” he said.

“For me, nothing was overlooked in this provision, the framers intentionally limited the role of the Senate. If we want to expand the role of the Senate we have to amend the Constitution,” he added.

Trillanes agreed with Pimentel on the need for Charter amendment but on the condition that Senate and the House of Representatives will vote separately and it will be a piecemeal or per provision amendment. 

Supplemental complaint

Last year, Trillanes together with Magdalo party-list Representative Gary Alejano filed with the ICC a supplemental complaint accusing President Duterte of committing crimes against humanity in connection with his intensified war on drugs.

Lawyer Jude Sabio was the first to file a complaint before the international court.

In February, the ICC announced that it will conduct an initial review of allegations against Duterte.

A month later, the President announced that he was taking the Philippines out of the Hague-based tribunal, saying there have been “baseless, unprecedented and outrageous” attacks against him and his administration and criticizing the attempt of the ICC prosecutor to place him under the tribunal’s jurisdiction. 

The initial investigation, however, will still proceed. — RSJ, GMA News