‘I will not resign’ – Miriam

SENATOR Miriam Defensor-Santiago said she will not resign until the International Criminal Court (ICC) calls her to duty.

Santiago issued the statement in response to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Atty. Sixto Brillantes pronouncement that she should resign to enable the commission to prepare ballots for the 2013 midterm elections.

Santiago, in a  letter to Brillantes,  said that the 2013 ballot should list only 12 vacancies for senators because she is unable to determine the date of her resignation and assumption to her ICC seat due to a provision in the ICC Charter.

The ICC Charter, also known as the Rome Statute, provides that any incumbent judge shall not be allowed to retire, until he finishes any trial where he participated.

Santiago was overwhelmingly elected in the ICC in elections held by the Assembly of States Parties in 12 December 2011, in New York.  She is the first Filipino and first Asian from a developing country to sit in the ICC, which tries cases of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

“In order to observe the provision that the ICC should consist of only 18 judges, a newly-elected Judge has to wait until an incumbent Judge has disposed of all his pending trials, even if the tenure extends beyond the retirement date of the incumbent,” Santiago said.  “In other words, a Judge assigned to a Trial or Appeals Chamber continues in office in order to complete the trial or appeal, even after the expiry of his or her term.  Then and only then will the new Judge be called to duty,” she said.

Santiago explained that ICC President Sang-Hyun Song, in a 22 February 2012 letter to the six newly-elected judges, including Santiago,  advised them “not to make any irreversible commitments for the time being which could terminate your current professional engagements with a view to future engagement at the Court.”  Santiago said she took this to mean that she should not yet resign as senator.

Santiago also said that she requested President Song to call her to duty as one of the last of the six new judges.  According to her, President Song took note of her personal preference, and her decision to continue discharging her duties as senator until she is called for duty by the ICC.

“I have no discretion on when I should report to the ICC.  This is why I cannot resign from the Senate, until the ICC indicates that I should do so,” she explained.  “I will simply have to wait until the ICC Presidency makes a decision on whether I should report to the Appeals Chamber, which is considered the most prestigious of the three chambers of the ICC.”

Santiago said that she kept silent about her potential resignation, because she did not want to add to the agitation among her political supporters, as evidenced by their comments on her Facebook page.

“Normally, the assumption to office by an ICC Judge is treated as confidential between her and the ICC Presidency.  But because there is now widespread media and public speculation in the Philippines, I am constrained to make this public, at least to save significant printing expenses on the part of the Comelec, and to guide political parties in drawing up their senatorial slates,” Santiago said.


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