Santiago is the first Filipino and the first Asian from a developing state to serve as ICC judge, thus earning a place of honor for the Philippines in ICC history.
Together with five other new judges, Santiago will take her oath of office this March, but will not immediately assume her post in The Hague, Netherlands, until the ICC calls her to report for duty.
Thus, it is likely that Santiago will remain as a senator in the next six months or even longer, depending on when she is called to The Hague.
The senator said she expects to play an active role as a trial judge in the impeachment case against Chief Justice Renato Corona, and to urge her fellow senators to pass the Reproductive Health bill, of which she is the author and co-sponsor.
“This is a victory for the Philippines in the international legal community. The tribute belongs to President Benigno Aquino, who nominated me; foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario, who maximized his unerring generalship over all Philippine posts abroad; foreign affairs undersecretary Rafael Seguis, who was the campaign manager; and most of all to Ambassador Libran Cabactulan, the Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations, who was the model diplomat in networking with the UN ambassadors. All members of the Philippine mission (embassy) in New York did splendid field work,” she said.
Santiago placed No. 1 in the first round of voting, followed by a candidate from Trinidad and Tobago.
At this writing, the second round and possibly other rounds still need to be conducted, in order to complete the number of six new judges.
The ICC has 120 states parties, of which 117 voted in the first round last Monday. The Philippines was No. 1 with 79 votes, the highest number. Trinidad and Tobago was No. 2, with 72 votes. The Philippine mission said that some of Santiago’s votes may have been inadvertently invalidated, because of complex balloting rules.
ICC elections are extremely complicated, but the process this year was made simpler when the Coalition for the ICC commissioned an Independent Panel of Experts to assess the qualifications of candidates. In the assessment report, Santiago was rated “Qualified,” while four other candidates were rated as “Unqualified.”
Interviewed by radio stations early yesterday morning, Santiago said she was ready to resign as senator if the ICC officially calls her to report for work, but that she personally prefers to stay as long as possible in the Senate.
“I entered the campaign to try and bring honor to the Philippines. But at the same time, I would like to serve as long as possible in the Senate, because I was elected for a six-year term and I have only served for a little over a year,” she said.
After she reports to The Hague, Santiago will serve a 9-year term.
“This victory means that in this region of the world, the Philippines stands as a champion of international humanitarian law, international human rights law, and the rule of international law in global affairs. It is a very tough personal challenge, but I have always liked challenges in my life,” said Santiago, who ran for president in 1992 and placed a very close second, but was denied the right to continue her electoral protest after she was elected senator.
The ICC was established by a treaty called the Rome Statute, in the deliberations of which the Philippines took an active part. However, under American pressure, the Philippine administration at that time refused to ratify the Rome Statute.
After President Barack Obama was elected, he changed American foreign policy by announcing a new policy of “principled engagement” with the ICC.
Following Obama’s policy change, the Philippine Senate, on the sponsorship of Santiago, voted overwhelmingly to ratify the Rome Statute. President Aquino immediately nominated her as judge.
In the past, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo similarly nominated Santiago as judge of the older court known as the International Court of Justice. But although Santiago won in the General Assembly voting, she lost in the Security Council voting.
Santiago’s prior candidacy to the ICJ was blocked by the US, because of her stand against the Visiting Forces Agreement; China, because of her close friendship with the Dalai Lama; and Japan, because of her efforts to amend certain provisions of the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) to favor Philippine nurses.#