Just last month, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte welcomed a preliminary investigation by the International Criminal Court. He dared the ICC to indict him. If convicted, he vowed that he would prefer a firing squad to prison. Yesterday, Duterte reversed himself. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.
In a 15-page statement, President Duterte declared that the Philippines will withdraw from the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the International Criminal Court. And while the statute plainly states that a withdrawal cannot take effect for at least a year, Duterte said the Philippines can leave the accord immediately, because it’s original decision to join was tainted by fraud.
Last month, the ICC announced an initial inquiry into a complaint that accused the president and other senior officials of mass murder and crimes against humanity. In the War on Drugs that began when Duterte took office in 2016, police say they’ve killed more than 4,000 pushers and users in shootouts; human rights groups say the death toll is more like 12,000 – many shot execution style.
President Duterte declared that the killings do not amount to crime against humanity or genocide and thus, the International Court has no jurisdiction. He denounced what he described as efforts to label him a heartless violator of human rights, and alleged that the court, the United Nations and non-governmental organizations were biased against him in particular and the Philippines in general.
If a case against Duterte does proceed, it will likely be years before it’s ready to go to court. The lawyer who brought the case in the first place, Jude Sabio said, “It is clear that Mr. Duterte is nervous about the case and is exploiting technicalities to avoid an imminent probe.”
Amnesty International called Duterte’s decision “misguided” and “cowardly.”