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MANILA, Philippines – Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago clarified on Wednesday that she will only resign from the Senate if the International Criminal Court (ICC) would order her to report to the Appeals Chamber of the prestigious international court.
Santiago made her reaction after Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. asked the lady senator to decide whether or not to resign her position before the deadline of the filing of candidacy in October so that Comelec can open the 13th slot for senator in the 2013 elections.
“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,” Santiago, an international law expert 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,” she added.
Santiago, who was elected earlier this year as a judge of the 18-member International Criminal Court based in The Hague, Netherlands, said the 2013 ballot should list only 12 vacancies for senators.
Santiago was overwhelmingly elected in the ICC in elections held by the Assembly of States Parties on December 12, 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.
The senator said she is unable to determine the date of her resignation and assumption to her ICC seat because of 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.
“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.”
Moreover, in a February 22, 2012 letter to the six newly-elected judges, including Santiago, ICC President Sang-Hyun Song 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 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.
Santiago said 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.
In media reports, Brillantes explained that the Precinct Count Optical Scan machines need to be reconfigured to 12 or 13 senators.
Brillantes said the 13th senator in the 2013 elections would serve the remainder of Santiago’s term which expires in 2016 if the lady senator resigns.