It is a rare occasion that the Senate considers an issue that recalls the broad sweep of developments in the last century if only to remind us that it proved to be one of the most violent periods of human history. It was characterized by two world wars, the Korean war, the Vietnam war and its 50 years toward the beginning of the present millennium pervaded by the tension of the Cold War that constantly pushed humanity to the brink of nuclear holocaust.
We have, however, the blessings of historic irony that the age of violence and atrocities created the transformative processes for a new international public order; the barbarities in the Second World War gave way to the regime of the United Nations that put an end to war as a means of settling disputes among States. In the post-war world, in response to those barbarities, human rights and fundamental freedoms became the foundation stone of the new order installed in the United Nations Charter as the constitution of the international community.
But in the new century, the conditions of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity continue to defy the demands of international humanitarian law. As in the past, the perpetrators of atrocities enjoyed impunity, and as international law develops its creative means of defining crimes for almost a century, it failed to give fruition to a system of criminal justice in keeping with the times, or an enduring institution of independence and permanence that can put to trial the perpetrators of crimes of serious concern to the international community, consign them to serve the sentence of an international criminal tribunal and deter the perpetration of those crimes.
Culmination of Historic Process: The Rome Statute of the ICC
The adoption of the Rome Statute came as a culmination of a long process on the soaring hope of the international community to found a permanent international penal tribunal. Among the early attempts following the first World War was the proposal of the Commission on the Responsibility of the Authors of War and on Enforcement of Penalties to establish a “high tribunal composed of judges drawn from many nations”. Earlier, the Treaty of Versailles ending the First World War provided for a tribunal to try the German Kaiser for violation of international morality, but this failed to materialize. In 1920, the Advisory Committee of Jurists organized for the project on the Permanent Court of International Justice proposed the creation of a High Court of International Justice whose jurisdiction included the prosecution of crimes pertaining to breaches of international public order, a proposal rejected by the Council of the League of Nations.
A watershed in the development of international criminal law came about on the initiative of the victorious Sates in the Second World War. The Nuremberg and Tokyo Criminal Tribunals dealt with the Nazi and Japanese war criminals respectively; they were ad hoc tribunals and they ended their functions after the performance of their work. But they demonstrated how the outrage over the atrocities committed by the war criminals steeled the political will to enforce criminal justice. Through the participation of a Filipino judge, the Tokyo Trial gave the Philippines its first experience in international criminal justice, a prelude to our involvement in the work of the ICC under the Rome Statute.
The task towards a permanent international criminal tribunal began by the League of nations was taken over by the United Nations which, through the International Law Commission, formulated the principles from the work of the Nuremberg Tribunal, codified international crimes and prepared the draft statute for the establishment of a permanent international criminal court. The Cold War impeded the final stages of the UN preparatory work.
The massive violation of international humanitarian law in former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda triggered a renewed outrage that could not wait for a prolonged treaty-making process for the establishment of a permanent criminal court. The UN Security Council speedily, by resolution, established two but ad hoc tribunals, to deal with the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda crises, lest the horrific violations of human rights be condoned.
In parallel to the creation of the two ad hoc tribunals, the UN resumed work on the draft statute of an international criminal court that came to be the basis of the Rome Statute adopted by the UN Diplomatic conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court.
On July 17, 1998, the Philippines cast its vote for the adoption of the Rome Statute, together with the 119 Member States of the UN. It has been 13 years since then but today we resume taking up our responsibility as a Nation-State in pursuit of human rights and fundamental freedom.
Despite differences in culture and legal systems, the participating States came to Rome with one unified object and purpose: that universal justice be done to the victims of the terrible atrocities by the establishment of the International Criminal Court. Throughout the proceedings of the Rome Conference, the Philippine delegation worked with the awareness of the instruction from their Government that they must support the establishment of a permanent and independent international criminal tribunal.
Today, we must make the affirmation in principled agreement with the international community that the Philippines is, as the Rome Statute declares:
Mindful that during this century millions of children, women and men have been victims of unimaginable atrocities that deeply shock the conscience of humanity;
Affirming that the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole must not go unpunished;
Determined to put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes and thus to contribute to the prevention of such crimes; and
Recalling that it is the duty of every State to exercise its criminal jurisdiction over this responsible for international crimes;
Today, on behalf of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and as Chair of this Committee, together with the Sub-Committee chaired by our distinguished colleague, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, I invite the Members of this august body to vote in concurrence of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, in pursuance of Section 21, Article VII of the Constitution.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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Committee Report No. 52 Proposed Senate Resolution No. 546 “Resolution Concurring in the Ratification of the Statute of the International Criminal Court”