President Rodrigo Duterte again expressed readiness to face a death sentence should the International Criminal Court (ICC) find him guilty of crimes against humanity in connection with his war on drugs.
Duterte, who last year said he was ready to die by firing squad, issued the remark four days before the Philippines' exit from the Hague-based tribunal takes effect.
"For the things that I have said, ordered and done, I am willing to put my neck dito sa mga bagay na ‘to," Duterte said in a speech during the PDP-Laban campaign rally in Cauayan City, Isabela on Wednesday.
"Eh baka balang araw itong ICC na itong mga bugok na ito, if they decide to hang me, I would be very glad to go and ako pa ang maglagay...," he added.
By March 17, the Philippines will have effectively withdrawn its membership from the war crimes court, making it the second state party to leave the tribunal after Burundi in 2017.
Only national authorities may reverse a withdrawal, which in the case of the Philippines was a decision by the President that opposition senators and a non-governmental organization allege before the Supreme Court was unconstitutional for lacking Senate approval.
The Rome Statute as regards the ICC provides that a state "shall not be discharged, by reason of its withdrawal, from the obligations arising from this Statute while it was a Party to the Statute, including any financial obligations which may have accrued."
Duterte is facing two communications in connection with the drug war before the ICC, which opened in February last year a preliminary examination to determine whether it has jurisdiction over the matter and a full-blown investigation would serve the interests of justice and of the victims.
Last week, lawyer Jude Sabio, who filed the first communication in April 2017, said in an interview with CNN Philippines that the tribunal may decide to launch a formal probe before March 17.
Duterte's spokesperson Salvador Panelo said on Monday that the ICC will be violating its own rules if it would conduct a full-blown investigation into the war on drugs.
"[U]nder the law it says that they can proceed only when there is a preliminary investigation prior to the withdrawal; but there was no preliminary investigation, there was only preliminary examination," presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said at a news conference.
"If they force itself to acquire jurisdiction, it only shows that from the very start talagang hindi dapat pumapasok diyan sa ICC because it’s violating its own provisions."
Duterte had repeatedly said that the ICC had no jurisdiction over him, arguing that the Rome Statute--the treaty that established the ICC-- is not enforceable in the Philippines because it was not published in a government publication or any commercial newspaper.
Malacañang, meanwhile, cited the principle of complementarity in which the ICC can only investigate allegations of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes if the domestic courts are unable or unwilling to do so.
The Palace said the Philippines had a "robust judicial system which soundly operates." —NB, GMA News