The Philippines urgently needs to ratify the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court (ICC). President Noynoy Aquino is on the edge of history as he is urged to submit the ratification bill, certify it as urgent and persuade the Philippine Senate to act on that bill without delay. The Philippines is a signatory to the treaty but has not ratified it which is why no Filipino tyrant or military officer accused of war crimes or crimes against humanity has been investigated and brought before the court in the Hague.
On March 7-8, 2011, the ICC President, Judge Sang Hyun Song visted the Philippines. Now comes an important opportunity for the Senate to ratify the treaty and protect the people of the Philippines from the scourge of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. There is much unfinished human rights work to be revived covering past crimes that killed, tortured and maimed thousands of innocent people. That’s where the ICC comes in. The killers are so well connected and protected by powerful politicians only the ICC can bring them to justice in the court in The Hague. The threat of an indictment and an international arrest warrant can also act as a deterrent to a regimes violating human rights and committing war crimes and genocide. Recent convictions in the court in the Hague have brought closure to the painful experiences and suffering of many victims and hope to many more victims of horrific crimes against humanity.
After seeing the dead and mutilated bodies of street youth in Davao City, the Philippines, and making a worldwide protest against it, I was charged with libel by the city mayor. The hundreds of killings in the city attributed by media reports to the Davao Death Squad constituted in the opinion of human rights lawyers and the Philippine Commissioner on Human Rights Leila de Lima, (now Secretary of Justice) a crime against humanity. Her investigation was thwarted by politicians, police and even a judge. There were just too many bodies and unsolved murders that could not be ignored. Yet the culprits could not be brought to justice in the Philippines. That’s where the ICC can intervene. The systematic killing of street youth and activists for decades surely constitutes crimes against humanity. Tyrants controlled the people and kept them in ignorance through terror and fear until recently. Now the internet, as a free and open communication channel, can unseat dictators by its power to mobilize millions of people for peaceful demonstrations and protest.There have been over a thousand people murdered and assassinated in the past 15 years by suspected military and police hit squads. They were human rights workers, social activists, peaceful protesters, radio and print journalists, (over 124 of them were assassinated). Also political organizers pastors and priests were murdered; and none of those cases have been solved. The ICC can bring light and justice into this situation and hold those behind the killings and torture accountable.
First we have to get the Philippine senate to ratify the Rome Statute and then the Philippines will be able to call on the support and service of the ICC. Then those whom Jesus called blessed, those who hunger and thirst for justice, will have their fill.
Fr. Shay Cullen at the Preda Center, Upper Kalaklan, Olongapo City, Philippines. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org