Philippines pulls out of ICC as Duterte defiant on crackdown

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said in a statement Wednesday that the country was immediately withdrawing from the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Roque and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, in different radio and television interviews, defended the President's decision which came more than a month after an ICC court prosecutor said a preliminary examination had been opened into a complaint against President Duterte for alleged crimes against humanity.

"No, because if it pushes through, the President has not said that he will not cooperate", Roque said, when asked if the President is trying to avoid accountability, once the ICC finds probable cause to investigate his drug war.

Duterte also said that the accusations and statements of United Nations (UN) special rapporteur Agnes Callamard and the High Commissioner on Human Rights Zaid Ra'ad al-Hussein shows "international bias" and the refusal of global community to support the country's "legitimate efforts and self-determination, nation building and independence from foreign influence and control". "What we're saying is [the ICC] will not have juristidction over the President's person", he added. He also criticized ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who announced last month that she is opening a preliminary examination into the killings.

Amnesty International called Duterte's decision "misguided" and "cowardly".

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Senator Antonio Trillanes said Duterte was withdrawing "because he knows that there is no way out for him in the ICC".

Roque, who was a prominent advocate for the Philippines' joining the ICC in 2011, said he was saddened by the President's decision but he supports Duterte's move.

"A withdrawal would have no impact on ongoing proceedings or any matter which was already under consideration by the court prior to the date on which the withdrawal became effective", the ICC said, its first comment since Duterte's announcement.

"To prove that it's not a way of evading or getting away from consequences or the jurisdiction of ICC ... even if we withdraw, our actions back when we're a member are still covered", he said as quoted by the state-run Philippine News Agency.

He also said he would "love" to be executed by firing squad if found guilty by the ICC.

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In recent months, the Philippine government has lashed out against United Nations rapporteurs on human rights, issuing threats against officials such as Agnes Callamard, who is investigating extra-judicial killings in the Philippines.

"The deaths occurring in the process of legitimate police operation lacked the intent to kill", he said.

Duterte said that even if the ICC has jurisdiction over him, the accusations against him "do not fall under the enumerated grounds" of the worldwide law. "Neither is it a crime of aggression or a crime against humanity", he said.

Human rights groups, however, believe this number is understated as it does not include those killed by so-called vigilantes, some of whom were alleged to be state-sponsored.

The withdrawal takes effect one year after the secretary-general receives notification, according to ICC rules. China has called on the worldwide community to respect the Philippines' sovereignty on the issue.

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