The decision came as the international body, led by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, launched an examination in 2018 into possible crimes against humanity committed by President Rodrigo Duterte's ongoing drug crackdown, which according to Derrick Carreon, a spokesman for the Philippine drug enforcement agency (PDEA), between July 2016 and the end of November 2018, has taken 5,050 lives, mostly at the hands of the police.
However human rights advocates, including U.N. High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, estimate the real figure is much higher than the official numbers, ranging between 15,000 to 27,000. Human Rights Watch research has found that police falsify evidence to justify unlawful killings, despite growing calls for an investigation, Duterte has continued his hard stance.
The court "can never acquire jurisdiction over my person, not in a million years," said Duterte in a speech on Wednesday, as the withdrawal does not mean the investigations will cease. A signatory country cannot be discharged of any cases already pending in the court before the pullout.
Yet the government continues arguing that that the nation never legally joined the treaty that underpins the court becoming a state party to the Rome Statute which created the ICC, the president's spokesman Salvador Panelo pronounced Sunday, adding that "as far as we are concerned, this tribunal is non-existent and its actions a futile exercise."
In the notice dated March 15, 2018, Ambassador Teodoro Locsin Jr, Permanent Representative to the U.N. explained that the decision was due to the country’s “stand against those who politicize and weaponize human rights,” criticizing the actions of the international body, while insisting the Philippines has a functioning justice system.
By withdrawing, the Phillippines is the second country to do so after Burundi. A move that will resonate with other African nations such as Zambia, South Africa, Kenya, and, Gambia, who have also expressed interest in withdrawing as they have accused the court of being biased against Africans.
Duterte’s actions to prevent an ICC probe come as the U.S. announced Friday that the country will impose visa restrictions on people responsible for any court probe regarding their and their allies actions during and after the invasion in Afghanistan.