PHOTO BY ARCHIVE
MANILA – A lawyer of self-confessed hit man Edgar Matobato filed a complaint before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague against President Rodrigo Duterte and 11 other ranking government officials for the “continuing mass murder” in the country, which allegedly constitute crimes against humanity.
Lawyer Jude Josue Sabio cited in his 77-page complaint the killings of criminals when Duterte was mayor of Davao City and of more than 8,000 drug suspects in the Philippines in the administration’s war against drugs that began just after Duterte assumed the presidency on June 30 last year.
The complaint against Duterte at the ICC is a first against a Philippine president and in the country’s history.
Malacañang officials defended Duterte from the charges.
Presidential legal counsel Salvador told CNN Philippines that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the complaint against the President, adding that the alleged killings of criminals and drug suspects do not fall under genocide or crimes against humanity.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, for his part, said in a statement “the timing of the filing is suspect – apparently meant to create negative news in the midst of the Philippines ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) debut; as it cannot prosper.”
Manila is hosting an Asean conference this week.
Sabio, in a letter to ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, said “crimes against humanity are crimes of universal jurisdiction, but where a State like the Philippines fails to assume such universal jurisdiction for crimes against humanity continuously being committed in its very own territory, then the International Criminal Court will have to intervene into a situation that is grave by any human standard.”
“The grim statistics of more than 7,000 drug-related killings cannot be anything but grave, especially if viewed in the context of just seven months since Rodrigo Duterte became the President, compared to only about 3,000 committed during the 20-year Marcos regime. These more than 7,000 drug-related killings translate to roughly 1,000 killings per month.”
“The impunity is grave, as shown by the ‘repeated, unchanging and continuing’ extra-judicial or summary executions, with unrelenting impunity, ever since the time that President Duterte was still mayor of Davao City claiming 1,400 deaths, more or less, under his Davao Death Squad and later on in the national level in the war on drugs after 30 June 2016 waged by the very same person, no less than President Duterte, who formed, created, managed, headed and masterminded the Davao Death Squad in Davao City when he was still a mayor.
Sabio’s complaint cited the testimonies of Matobato, his fellow Davao Death Squad (DDS) members Arturo Lascañas and Ernesto Avasola; reports of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch; Fr. Amado Picardal’s report titled “The Victims of the Davao Death Squad: Consolidated Report 1998-2015”; and news articles that quoted Mr. Duterte and his administration officials defending the war on drugs.
Sabio told the ICC in his complaint that he filed a complaint against Duterte and 11 other government officials “to make President Duterte accountable for his crimes in the name of international criminal justice, and to once and for all end this dark, obscene, murderous, and evil era in the Philippines,”
“After filing the case, the Office of the Prosecutor will determine whether the case is within the jurisdiction of the ICC and if it is proper to file criminal charges against the accused, before investigating the case and issuing Warrant of Arrest against them,” Sabio said.
Other government officials named in the complaint are Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald Dela Rosa, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, former interior secretary Ismael Sueno, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Dante Gierran, Solicitor-General Jose Calida, Senator Richard Gordon (for his previous statements that the killings were not state-sponsored and for ending a Senate inquiry on alleged extrajudicial killings), Senator Alan Peter Cayetano (for “aiding and abetting” the killings), Manila police chief Edilberto Leonardo, Senior Police Office 4 Sonny Buenaventura, and Police Superintendent Royina Garma.
Meanwhile, Abella said “the intent of this filing in ICC is clearly to embarrass and shame the President, and undermine the duly-constituted government of the Philippines. It is a cynical effort against the reform-oriented agenda of the Duterte administration and of the betterment of the lives of the Filipino people.”
He also said Sabio’s decision to go to the ICC, known as a court of last resort, is misguided. GAC/Expat Media
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