By RONALYN OLEA
MANILA – For an anti-imperialist group, the move of President Benigno S. Aquino III endorsing the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for ratification by the Senate is a welcome development but is not enough.
Aquino signed on Feb. 28 the instrument of ratification of the said treaty and had asked the Senate for its concurrence.
The Rome Statute is a treaty that established the ICC, an international tribunal for the prosecution of international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression. While the Philippines adopted the Rome Statute on July 17, 1998 and signed it on December 28, 2000, former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo did not transmit the treaty to the Senate for ratification.
“In a sense, it is an act of correcting a wrong because Aquino did what Arroyo did not,” Rey Claro Casambre, president of International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS)-Philippine chapter. Casambre, added though: “What is ironic, however, is that while this opens a possibility for the crimes to be brought before the ICC, there are many human rights violations committed by state agents and foreign troops here in the Philippines that have not been prosecuted.”
Casambre pointed out that even if Aquino signed and sent the Rome Statute to the Senate for ratification, his sincerity is suspect since nobody has been prosecuted for the more than a thousand extrajudicial killings under the previous administration. Worse, extrajudicial killings are continuing under the Aquino government.
“Before protecting your citizens from foreign aggressors, you should not allow your own state machinery to violate the rights of your citizens. Aquino must start with bringing justice to all victims of extrajudicial killings in the past ten years of the Arroyo administration,” Casambre said. According to human rights group Karapatan, there are more than a thousand victims of extrajudicial killings under the Arroyo regime.
Karapatan said no one has been prosecuted for the murders. “It might be just for show. Aquino might be thinking it was the right thing to do but whether it was driven by a conscious policy of protecting civilians, apparently not,” Casambre said.
Under the new administration, more than 40 activists have been gunned down, according to Karapatan.
Casambre said the ratification of Rome Statute may not guarantee prosecution of crimes committed by American troops deployed in the country.
“The Non-Surrender Agreement renders the Rome Statute ineffective,” Casambre said. The agreement provides immunity for US troops from any accountability, specifically with regard to crimes under ICC. The Philippine Supreme Court recently upheld the constitutionality of the Non-Surrender Agreement signed by the US and the Philippines during the Arroyo administration.
Casambre explained that the Rome Statute states that the treaty should be complementary to national criminal laws.
The US, Casambre said, has similar agreements with 33 other countries. “It is a deliberate move by the US to neutralize the effects of the Rome Statute,” Casambre said.
The anti-imperialist leader said the Balikatan war exercises continue to violate constitutional provisions banning foreign troops and nuclear weapons, among others.
“Unless the Aquino administration rescind the Non-Surrender Agreement, and prosecute perpetrators of extrajudicial killings, there are no clear signals that this administration really wants to protect its citizens,” Casambre said.