MANILA -- President Rodrigo R. Duterte is ready to face the International Criminal Court (ICC) to personally defend the legality of his administration's war on drugs, MalacaAang said Thursday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this statement following reports that the ICC Office of the Prosecutor would begin preliminary examination on the crimes against humanity linked to the campaign against illegal drugs.
The President has said that if need be, he will argue his case personally before the International Criminal Court, Roque said in a Palace briefing, noting that he had a two-hour discussion with Duterte about the matter Wednesday night.
Roque further said that Duterte welcomed the preliminary examination as a chance to defend his drug war because he's sick and tired of being accused of crimes against humanity.
This is an opportunity for him (Duterte) to prove that this is not subject to the court's jurisdiction because of both complementarity that domestic courts and the fact that we have a domestic, international, humanitarian law statuted in our jurisdiction are reasons enough for the court not to exercise jurisdiction, Roque said.
Roque said that the case was not subject to the jurisdiction of the ICC because Philippine courts were more than able and willing to exercise jurisdiction.
The Palace spokesperson said that there was even a pending complaint against the killings allegedly attributed to the war on drugs in the Office of the Ombudsman.
He said that the Ombudsman had the power to recommend an impeachment, which if successful, would lead to a criminal prosecution against Duterte.
The President has made it clear that he will communicate, he will assert the principle of complementarity, he will assert the legality of the war against drugs as a valid exercise of sovereign powers and therefore the element required for a crime against humanity is lacking, Roque said.
In a slide show, Roque explained that elements required for a crime against humanity must be either widespread or systematic attack directed against civilian populations with knowledge that it was being directed against civilian population.
Roque pointed out that alleged extrajudicial killings will not prove anything because of the lawful sovereign act to deal with the problem of illegal drugs.
Because the war on drug is a lawful, legitimate police operation, it cannot be characterized as an attack against civilian populations because they are civilians. It is a lawful use of force and therefore we submit that the element of directing an attack against directing an attack is simply lacking, he added.
He said Duterte was looking forward to engaging the ICC Office of the Prosecutor and expressed confidence that it would not go beyond its preliminary examination.
The President himself is a lawyer, he looks forward in fact to engaging the prosecutor of the court as a former prosecutor himself, Roque said.
Meanwhile, Roque also stressed that Duterte stood by his position that he swore an oath to protect this republic against all threats to national security including the war on drugs.
Initiatives vs. Duterte
Roque said Duterte wanted to put the prosecutor on the stand to ask who prodded them to proceed to preliminary examination noting that it was his suspicion that it was because the domestic enemies of the state behind this.
Obviously there's been concerted public relations initiative against the President. Obviously this is intended to embarrass the President. But the President is a lawyer he knows what the procedures are. They will fail, Roque said.
He clarified that the decision of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor stemmed not from a complaint but two communications submitted by lawyer Jude Sabio, and Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and Representative Gary Alejano in 2017.
Sabio, in his communication, cited the number of people alleged killed by so-called Davao Death Squad in Davao city and the war on drugs which began in June 2016. Meanwhile, Trillanes and Alejano also cited Duterte's pronouncements on killing drug addicts.
It's not a complaint, it's a communication because there's no complaint yet, there are no charges yet. It emanated from the communication filed by individuals alleging crimes against humanity in the Philippines, Roque said.
Roque also pointed out that it was not a preliminary investigation but examination because it merely involved the collection and verification of information.
He explained that the objective of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor to conduct a preliminary examination is to determine if there is reasonable basis to proceed to a preliminary investigation.
I repeat no one should claim victory because we are only in a stage of preliminary examination, Roque said. (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency