Jemy Gatdula (in his article "No to the ICC," April 2) admits himself that the ICC is "a good idea," yet claims that it should not be "something the Philippines should be concerning itself with right now." This conclusion is not only unfortunate, but fails to convince.
Mr. Gatdula argues that ratifying the Rome Statue would not serve the national interest, as the chances of the Philippines making use of the ICC to protect its citizens is minimal, in particular as many host states of Filipino Overseas Workers are not (yet) party to the Rome Statute. This argument misses the wider implications of supporting the only permanent international criminal court. In order to truly reach our common goal of ensuring that perpetrators of heinous crimes are always, without exception, brought to justice, it is crucial to continue working for universal acceptance of the Statute and the Court. On our way, the distribution of justice might at times seem to be uneven, maybe even unfair, but our response to this challenge cannot be less justice, backing away from the great achievements already made. Instead, we must continue down the path we have chosen and intensify our efforts for more justice.
Mr. Gatdula equally argues that while human rights should be "aggressively protected," also the national interests of the Philippines should be upheld. In reality, however, there is no such thing as a trade-off between peace and justice. Peace and stability are bound to fall apart sooner rather than later if the wounds of the past are left to fester.
Debates on whether issues of war and peace take precedence over questions of crime and punishment are not confined to the Philippines. Nor is the ICC, as is often alleged, a place where the West judges the rest. We in Europe know from first hand what is at stake. The story of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) holds many parallels with the debate which surrounds these days the potential ratification of the Rome Statue by the Philippines. There too, the chief prosecutor was always seen as an agent of foreign powers meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation.
But the lessons to be drawn from the ICTY’s history are, in the end, very clear: it has impressed on national courts and leaders the need for serious legal proceedings. As the ICC acts only as a court of last resort, the primary responsibility for bringing offenders to justice lies with states themselves -- and this is where it should lie. In that respect, the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity, is a clear sign that the Philippines is committed to justice and moving in the right direction. Since what happens in court is not just about whether or not some individuals end up behind bars, it is about changing a culture of impunity, but beyond that it is about the victims, the ones who bear the scars of the crimes and had suffered the brutality of the criminals.