‘Kill, kill, kill’: Duterte’s words offer evidence in ICC

MANILA, Philippines—Throughout his rants and display of anger toward the drug menace, one word finds itself being uttered again and again by President Rodrigo Duterte—kill.

In March 2016, while still campaigning for president and still mayor of Davao City, Duterte declared “kill them all” referring to his plans against criminals and drug syndicates.

In July 2016, his first month in Malacañang, Duterte told police he’ll protect them even if they killed 1,000 persons in the performance of their duty.

Since the start of his presidency, Duterte was not known to hold anything back when the issue is about drugs. On this, the President was highly consistent even amid criticisms.

He had asked law enforcers to “shoot-to-kill” and assured he would “protect and take care of them.” He doesn’t give a shit, he said, about what human rights groups have to say.

When Fatou Bensouda, former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), requested the pre-trial chamber to investigate the Philippine campaign against drugs, Duterte’s remarks found themselves being useful as evidence.

Bensouda said the words of Duterte and even other officials of the Philippines, “encouraging, supporting and, in certain instances, urging the public to kill suspected drug users and dealers” indicate a State policy to attack civilians.

Last Wednesday (Sept. 15), the ICC formally opened an official investigation into crimes against humanity that were allegedly committed in the Philippines, especially in the government’s war on drugs.

The ICC said there was “reasonable basis” to proceed with the investigation, explaining that “specific legal element of the crime against humanity of murder” appears to have been committed.

It said the potential case(s) arising from the investigation “appear to fall within the Court’s jurisdiction.”

“For these reasons, the chamber hereby authorizes the commencement of the investigation into the situation in the Philippines, in relation to crimes within the jurisdiction of the court allegedly committed on the territory of the Philippines between 1 November 2011 and 16 March 2019 in the context of the so-called ‘war on drugs’ campaign,” the ICC chamber said.

The Philippine government, however, reiterated that it will not cooperate with the ICC investigation, saying it has no jurisdiction over the Philippines since the country withdrew from the treaty that established the ICC—the Rome Statute.

“While we expect that more theatrics will be employed by the detractors of the President as election season draws near, this blatant and brazen interference and assault on our sovereignty as an independent country by the ICC is condemnable,” Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said.

The ICC previously explained that it still has authority to look into alleged crimes committed while the Philippines was still a part of the treaty.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte had no reaction when he was informed of the decision, saying that ever since, the President asserted that he will rather die first than face foreign judges.

However, Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, said “no one should be invincible and infallible.” “There is always a time for everything,” he said.

Agnes Callamard, secretary general of Amnesty International and former special rapporteur of the United Nations, said the ICC decision was welcome as the Philippines is still “beset by a pervasive culture of impunity” and it gives victims and their relatives a chance to hold those responsible to account.

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