SolGen clarifies SC ruling on ICC

SolGen clarifies SC ruling on ICC

THE PHILIPPINE government is not legally bound by a 2021 Supreme Court (SC) ruling to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) probe of the country’s bloody war on drugs during the Duterte administration, according to the Office of the Solicitor General (SolGen).

Addressing Wednesday’s joint hearing of the House Justice and Human Rights Committees, Solicitor General Menardo I. Guevarra said the High Court’s ruling only dealt with the issue on the country’s 2018 withdrawal from the ICC.

“But in the process, the Supreme Court made certain dispositions about obligations which are not directly related to the issue at hand,” he said. “Lawyers call that statement as obiter dictum, which does not result in judicial doctrine or the source of any judicially enforceable right.”

As such, what was contained in the SC ruling “may be persuasive, but not the doctrinal ruling of the court,” Mr. Guevarra explained.

In legal terms, obiter dictum is a remark that is mentioned in passing during the hearing of a case in court, which is not part of the tribunal’s final ruling in the case.

“Legally he (Mr. Guevarra) is right. That part of the decision was an obiter dictum,” Ephraim B. Cortez, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), said in a Viber message. “But there is nothing that prevents the Philippine Government from cooperating with the ICC.”

Mr. Cortez noted that the President can rejoin the ICC without confirmation from the Senate.

Last week, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. said his administration was considering to rejoin the ICC, which is investigating his predecessor, Rodrigo R. Duterte, for alleged “crimes against humanity.”

The High Court in 2021 dismissed a petition seeking to void Mr. Duterte’s withdrawal from the tribunal, even as it ruled that international agreements need Senate concurrence.

It said the petition was moot since the ICC had accepted the Philippines’ withdrawal in 2019. Mr. Duterte withdrew Philippine membership in the international court a year earlier.

“Withdrawing from the Rome Statute does not discharge a state party from the obligations it has incurred as a member,” according to the March 16, 2021 ruling written by Senior Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen.

“Consequently, liability for the alleged summary killings and other atrocities committed in the course of the war on drugs is not nullified or negated here.”

Manila Rep. Bienvenido M. Abante, Jr., Party-List Rep., France L. Castro and Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman earlier filed separate resolutions urging the state to cooperate with the ICC probe.

The House justice panel adopted the three resolutions as the hearing ended on Wednesday.

“Cooperation with the ICC will show our willingness to be transparent,” said Mr. Abante, who heads the House Human Rights panel. “I don’t question the legal processes in the Philippines, but I question our reputation abroad.”

The ICC in January reopened its probe of the government’s deadly drug war, saying it was not satisfied with Philippine efforts to probe human rights abuses during the period. — John Victor D. Ordoñez