Manila: The Senate has approved the Rome Statute, a crucial treaty that opens to International Criminal Court-intercession cases involving crimes against humanity and human rights.

"The Senate approved on third and final reading the resolution concurring in the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the world's first permanent tribunal for war crimes," a statement issued by the senate said.

Under the country's set up, treaties and important agreements entered into by the government through the executive department (the President), are subject to senate concurrence.

Resolution 546, passed late Tuesday, concurred in the ratification of the Rome Statute transmitted by President Benigno Aquino III to the Senate last February 28. Under the treaty, the ICC can intervene when countries are unwilling or unable to dispense justice for the core crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or crimes of aggression.

The Philippines was one of the countries that drafted the treaty in 1998.

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, who sponsored the resolution, referred to the Rome Statute as "the most important institutional innovation since the founding of the United Nations."

The senator said once a state becomes a party to the Rome Statute, any past leader could be investigated and prosecuted if he commits a core crime, particularly if he is the head of state, member of the national legislature, or government official at a similarly high level.

"If the state is already investigating or prosecuting its own head of state or similar official, the Court will not intervene. But if the state is unwilling or unable to prosecute, then the Court will try the case in The Hague," Santiago said.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who registered the lone negative vote to the resolution adopting the Rome Statute, reasoned that he voted against the adoption of the treaty because it might impede soldiers local armed fprces from the carrying out their duties.

Aside from this, he also said that its adoption "expose Philippine Presidents to all kinds of suits where they will have to spend their own money, personal fortunes to defend themselves, and the worries that accompany them while they await the verdict which is outside our normal forum."

Under Article 28 of the Rome Statute, the military commander will also assume command responsibility for crimes committed by forces under his command.

Santiago said that unlike the International Court of Justice---which punishes only states--- the ICC will hold persons, except minors, individually responsible for their actions.

The Senator added that aside from allowing the prosecution of war criminals, the treaty will also put the Philippines in a better position to protect Filipino Overseas Workers against crimes against humanity when they work abroad.

"By concurring in the ratification of the Rome Statute, the Philippines will help the Court to end the culture of impunity, and affirm our position as a leading human rights advocate in Asia," Santiago said.