Duterte on ICC’s preliminary examination: “What is extrajudicial killing?”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 February) — President Rodrigo Duterte wants to know what crime he is being accused of before the International Criminal Court (ICC) because “extrajudicial killing,” he said, is not found in the penal code of the country and the world.

“What is extrajudicial killing? If you accuse me of what is extrajudicial killing, there is no f_cking provision of extrajudicial killing. It is not found anywhere,” Duterte said in a press conference Friday night at the clubhouse of the Matina Enclaves.

The President was reacting to the announcement of ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on Thursday that the ICC will “open a preliminary examination” into the situation in the Philippines following a “careful, independent and impartial review of a number of communications and reports documenting alleged crimes potentially falling within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.”

ONGOING. The website of the International Criminal Court’s entry on the Philippines: Preliminary examination ongoing.

Bensouda said the preliminary examination will analyze crimes allegedly committed since July 1, 2016, Day One of the Duterte administration, “in the context of the ‘war on drugs’ campaign launched by the Government of the Philippines.”

“Specifically, it has been alleged that since 1 July 2016, thousands of persons have been killed for reasons related to their alleged involvement in illegal drug use or dealing. While some of such killings have reportedly occurred in the context of clashes between or within gangs, it is alleged that many of the reported incidents involved extra-judicial killings in the course of police anti-drug operations,” Bensouda said.

Duterte, Davao City mayor for 22 years, said Bensouda should be shown photographs of Filipino workers who were abused in Kuwait. “Ipakita mo sa kanya yan. (Show these to her). The mayor of Davao City says or the former mayor of Davao says, ‘you better read. You are so worried about the lives of the criminals then take a look at the miserable agony of my countrymen (in Kuwait)…. you are worried of the criminals but you’re not worried of…”

Duterte said he hopes Bensouda comes to the Philippines. “And I hope that we can be together in a room. I would ask for that privilege of talking…Tayo lang (just us) — the two of us in a room … and if you want to find me guilty, go ahead. So be it,” he said, adding he does not need to face trial.

“Find a country where they kill people with a firing squad. And I’m ready … If you go, if you hail me into a rigmarole of trial and trial, no need. Go ahead and proceed in your investigation. Find me guilty, of course, you can do that. I do not want imprisonment. I said, I beg of you to find a country where they execute — By the way, what is EKJ (sic)? We are not clear on that definition. What is extrajudicial killing?” Duterte asked.

Duterte, a government prosecutor until he was appointed OIC Vice Mayor in 1986, said he would lecture on the criminal system in the Philippines. “May I lecture you?,” he asked, citing the Constitution which “provides for remedies for the State to seek a redress of grievance from criminals.”

He explained that the country used to impose the death penalty but did not say he wanted it reimposed for drugs-related offenses.

President Rodrigo Duterte asks the International Criminal Court in a press conference on Friday night, 09 February 2018: “what is extrajudicial killing?” The ICC has announced it will conduct a “preliminary examination” into the alleged extrajudicial killings in relation to the “war on drugs” since July 1, 2016, Day One of the Duterte Administration. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

“Criminal law says you cannot escape liability by just pretending to be ignorant so in order not to be ignorant, we have to publish our penal laws, especially with punitive sanctions,” he said.

Duterte, noted that one of the fundamental requirements in a democracy is that you must know the law that you are violating. He said these laws must be published in the Official Gazette.

“Was there any publication? None. What is in the Revised Penal Code? Is there extrajudicial killing? Then our principles of territoriality is that the crime must only be prosecuted in the place or the country where the crime was committed,” Duterte added.

He noted that the United States did not sign the Rome Statute because President George Bush the son would have gone to prison for invading Iraq, raising the excuse of weapons of mass destruction “only to find out or to say later on, there was none.”

He said he can’t understand why he is being singled out when there are so many massacres happening ..”in all parts of Asia.”

“You better clear that up because I will withdraw from the ICC,” he warned. Duterte had issued that warning many times in the past.

Asked last Friday if he would withdraw, Duterte replied: “I do not want to appear na I’m trying to avoid liability. Basta sinabi ko lang na, eh kung ganun ang style nila, karami ngayong mass rape. Bakit ako?. Ang namamatay dito kriminal. Ang mabuti sana kung walang namatay sa pulis ko pati sundalo ko” (I just said that if that is their style, there are so many mass rape. Why me? Criminals are the ones killed here. But my policemen and soldiers were killed, too).

Asked if he thought the ICC has no jurisdiction, Duterte replied: “Hindi mo pinublish eh.”

Bensouda in a statement on October 13, 2016, said her office was aware of “worrying reported extra-judicial killings of alleged drug dealers and users in the Philippines, which may have led to over 3,000 deaths in the past three months.”

“I am deeply concerned about these alleged killings and the fact that public statements of high officials of the Republic of the Philippines seem to condone such killings and further seem to encourage State forces and civilians alike to continue targeting these individuals with lethal force,” she said.

Bensouda added that “extra-judicial killings may fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court .. if they are committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population pursuant to a State policy to commit such an attack.”

She said the Philippines is a state party to the ICC which “has jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed on the territory or by nationals of the Philippines” since November 1, 2011, when the Statute entered into force in the Philippines.

“Let me be clear: any person in the Philippines who incites or engages in acts of mass violence including by ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing, in any other manner, to the commission of crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC is potentially liable to prosecution before the Court,” she said.

Bensouda said the ICC would be closely following developments in the Philippines “and record any instance of incitement or resort to violence with a view to assessing whether a preliminary examination into the situation of the Philippines needs to be opened.”

On April 24 last year, Jude Sabio, lawyer of Edgar Matobato, a self-confessed hitman of the Davao Death Squad, filed a complaint before the ICC, alleging that Duterte “repeatedly, unchangingly and continuously” committed crimes against humanity.

Sabio cited the murder of at least 1,400 persons allegedly by the DDS in Davao City and the killing of at least 7,000 in the Philippines under the Duterte administration.

The complaint was based on the testimony of Matobato and retired policeman Arturo Lascanas, statements from rights groups and media reports.

Matobato told a Senate investigation in 2016 that Duterte founded the DDS. Lascanas, then in active service, testified also in 2016 that the DDS was a mere “media hype” but in February 2017, Lascanas, by then a retired policeman, recanted his testimony, claiming the DDS is real, that they were receiving orders from then Mayor Duterte and received money for every kill mission.

Duterte has repeatedly denied Matobato’s and Lascanas’ allegations. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)