‘Miriam would have pulverized’ Panelo, says late senator’s sister

MANILA, Philippines –  If Miriam Defensor Santiago were still alive, she would have deftly “pulverized” the argument of Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo that her election as a judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC) was "void."

Linn Defensor Evangelista, the sister of the late senator, made the statement in a Facebook post on Tuesday, March 26, where she slammed Panelo for making the clain.

"To say that the Philippine membership in the ICC is not valid and that Miriam was not a valid judge is irresponsible, offensive, and full of malice," Evangelista said.

"I am beyond upset. This is a cowardly attack and an evil attempt to undermine that which is true," she added.

On Monday, March 25,  Panelo claimed that Santiago's election as ICC judge was never valid, going by the Malacañang "theory" that the Philippines was never an ICC member

"If the position is we’ve never been a state party, then logically, it is void," Panelo had said, referring to Santiago's election as an ICC judge.

Evangelista thumbed down Panelo's logic and arguments.

"We (myself and those who keep Miriam’s legacy alive) are no match as to how Miriam would have pulverized the arguments of this Duterte administration spokesperson," she said.

'Sorry' for hurting feelings

To be an ICC judge, an individual must be a national of an ICC member-country at the time of their election as judge. 

Santiago was elected ICC judge in 2011, something the Philippine government campaigned hard for, devoting resources and personnel to the goal. Santiago became the first Filipino and first Asian from a developing country to be elected ICC judge.

Evangelista said Panelo's words about her sister were "immoral and extremely disrespectful."

"My sister is gone – she cannot argue and defend her belief that the ICC is a legitimate entity and that the Philippines is a valid member," she said.

On Tuesday, Panelo apologized for "hurting" Evangelista's feelings but stood by his statement that Santiago's election as ICC judge was void.

"If the theory is we never were under the jurisdiction of the ICC, it goes without saying that any appointment to the International Court would be void, if that is the theory," he said.

Panelo said Evangelista likely "misunderstood" his remarks the other day. On Monday, Panelo had surmised that Santiago, hailed as one of the country's most brilliant legal minds, got it wrong when she campaigned to be an ICC judge.

If she had known about the supposed non-publication of the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the ICC, she would likely have questioned it, said Panelo.

"Knowing her to be a lawyer, she never knew that there was a publication on the Official Gazette or a newspaper of general circulation. Had she known that, knowing her, I’m sure she would have raised that as an issue," he said.

No need to pull out Pangalangan

There remains another Filipino ICC judge – Raul Pangalangan. The ICC said he would stay on as ICC judge, despite the Philippines' withdrawal which took effect on March 17.

Asked if the Philippines would somehow remove Pangalangan as judge, Panelo made the bizarre assertion that there was no need since the position was never Pangalangan's.

"We don’t have to pull out anybody. If the position is we never were under the jurisdiction of the court, then it behooves whoever is there to do something for himself," he said.

Yet President Rodrigo Duterte himself said he was "withdrawing" the Philippines' ratification of the Rome Statute, which means there was something to withdraw or be withdrawn from.

"I therefore declare and forthwith give notice, as President of the Republic of the Philippines, that the Philippines is withdrawing its ratification of the Rome Statute effective immediately," he had said back on March 14, 2018.

Pulling out Pangalangan from the ICC, said Panelo would be "inconsistent" with Malacañang's stance that it never withdrew from the ICC since it was never a member to begin with. 

"In the first place, you will be inconsistent. You are saying there is no jurisdiction. Why will we withdraw if there was no jurisdiction?" said Panelo. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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