‘Premature and improper’

05:03 AM February 28, 2018

Like lawyer Jude Josue Sabio, who recently lodged a complaint before the International Criminal Court (ICC) against President Duterte on the “war on drugs,” I am also scared. However, unlike him, what I am afraid of is the probability that his act will become a precedent to disgrace and violate the independence of both our sovereignty as a state, and our legal and judicial system.

As once a student of public international law, I was taught that there are certain parameters that must first be satisfied
before the ICC can take cognizance of any controversy, situation, or case presented before it. First, the crimes submitted for the tribunal’s consideration must be among those explicitly enumerated by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court — genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression.


But things don’t end there because the next question that needs to be resolved is whether or not the controversy brought before it is “admissible.” Essentially, under the Roman Statute of the International Criminal Court, a case may not be admitted by said
tribunal for consideration unless: a) the state is unwilling or unable to genuinely carry out the investigation or prosecution of the acts complained of; b) the state has decided not to prosecute the person/s concerned due to such unwillingness or inability; c) the person concerned had been tried in another court already but whose proceedings were for the purpose of protecting the former from criminal responsibility or were not conducted independently and impartially; or d) the case is sufficient enough to justify further action by the Court.

Considering the foregoing, it must be noted that anyone who invokes the jurisdiction of the ICC must first and foremost ascertain not just the kind and nature of the acts or crimes complained of, but more importantly, whether or not all the legal and administrative remedies available and sanctioned by the state involved have all been exhausted. Otherwise, any act done by the ICC upon the case referred to it shall constitute a blatant interference both of the sovereign right and duty of such state to independently prosecute individuals, who disrupt its law and social order.


Applying these to the instant case, I believe Sabio’s resort to invoke the jurisdiction of the ICC is premature and improper under present circumstances. What he should have done was to initiate a legal proceeding, sanctioned under our laws, that shall pave the way for the due prosecution and punishment of those who may be responsible for the alleged inhumane and unlawful implementation of President Duterte’s flagship program against illegal drug use and abuse.

Why go all the way to the Netherlands when he could have looked for a trial court with the proper jurisdiction? If the aforesaid fundamental legal principles are known to mere law students like me, with more reason that full-fledged lawyers like him must be aware and mindful about these.

Ultimately, Sabio’s recent endeavor, albeit admirable or inspiring to some, creates the impression that our country is not capable of administering our domestic affairs so much so that interference from an international court is warranted. As an officer of the Philippines’ courts of law bound by his oath and responsibility as lawyer to “promote respect for law and
legal processes,” it is painful to witness how he himself disregards the independence of the legal system to which he took all the rigors and sacrificed a lot for.

TEOFILA LAZO, [email protected]

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TAGS: drug killings, EJKs, extrajudicial killings, ICC, Inquirer letters, International Criminal Court, Jude Jose Sabio, Teofila Lazo, war on drugs
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