By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

(Photo file)

MANILA – The Philippine government has backed a democracy declaration issued by several countries but disassociated itself from references to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

On March 29, the United States, the Philippines and 71 other countries supported the joint statement issued at the 2023 Summit for Democracy in Washington DC reaffirming democracy as a means to advance peace, prosperity, equality, sustainable development and security.

The declaration highlighted the need to strengthen democratic institutions while citing the “important role played by the ICC as a permanent and impartial tribunal complementary to national jurisdictions in advancing accountability for the most serious crimes under international law.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday endorsed the declaration but distanced from the text referring to the ICC, saying the court has “failed the test of complementarity”.

The ICC is anchored on the principle of complementarity under the Rome Statute, which recognizes that the state has the first responsibility and right to prosecute international crimes but may exercise jurisdiction where national legal systems fail to do so.

The ICC earlier authorized the resumption of an investigation into the situation in the Philippines, including the crimes allegedly committed between November 2011 and March 16, 2019, in the context of the campaign against illegal drugs.

“The Philippine government does not recognize the ICC’s jurisdiction and affirms that the Philippine has the jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute crimes, including those allegedly committed in the context of the country’s anti-illegal drugs campaign,” it said.

“The Philippines maintains that the rule of law and accountability are fully functioning through its criminal justice system and efforts to improve mechanisms, such as the AO35 Mechanism,” it added.

The DFA, meanwhile, said the Philippines would continue to fight impunity despite its withdrawal from the Rome Statute, adding the country has a national legislation punishing atrocity crimes.

The Philippines reiterated that “human rights-related dialogues and platforms must not be politicized and targeted against specific countries and instead be constructive, inclusive, and directed at delivering meaningful, long-lasting solutions”. (PNA)