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ICC complaint against Duterte meant to shame PHL ahead of ASEAN —Palace

Malacañang on Monday said that the complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte at the International Criminal Court (ICC) is meant to humiliate as the Philippines prepares for the hosting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Meetings this week.

In a statement, presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella questioned the timing of the complaint filed by Jude Sabio, the lawyer of confessed hitman and alleged Davao Death Squad member Edgar Matobato.

“The timing of the filing of the case is suspect – apparently meant to create negative news in the midst of the Philippines ASEAN debut [sic]; as it cannot prosper,” he 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 added.

Sabio said in the 77-page complaint that Duterte "repeatedly, unchangingly and continuously" committed crimes against humanity and that under him, killing drug suspects and other criminals has become "best practice."

Sabio serves as legal counsel for Matobato, a man who has testified in the Senate that he was part of a hit squad that operated on Duterte's orders.

It is the first publicly known communication to the ICC against Duterte and is based on the testimony of Matobato and retired policeman Arturo Lascanas, reports from rights groups and media reports, including a Reuters series on the killings.

Abella argued that the ICC is the go-to court when a complainant has exhausted all domestic legal remedies.

“International Criminal Court rules provide that the ICC, as a court of last resort, will only exercise jurisdiction over a case once legal remedies in the Philippines have been exhausted. Atty. Sabio or his client, Mr. Edgardo Matobato, did not avail/exhaust all domestic remedies allowed under the Philippine Constitution,” he said.

Abella said that the Philippines has conducted its own investigation on the accusations against the President.

“Furthermore, an independent Senate investigated the charges hurled against the President with self-confessed hitman Mr. Batobato as star witness. As such, there is no unwillingness or inability on the part of the State to investigate and prosecute the President,” Abella said.

Figures from the Philippine National Police show that as of March 30, legitimate police operations have led to the deaths of more than 2,600 drug personalities since July 1, 2016 when its war on drugs started under the Duterte administration.

Its statistics also point to more than 6,000 deaths under investigation — including those involving drug suspects — for the same period.

Abella maintained that the Duterte administration had nothing to do with these deaths.

“The so-called ‘Extrajudicial killings’, are not state-sanctioned or state-sponsored. Police authorities are ‘conducting legitimate operations that require observance of operational protocols and those who breach procedures are made to answer before the law,’” he said.

“The Philippine National Police (PNP) has an Internal Affairs Service (IAS) tasked to probe police accused of violating procedures.  This body can suspend or dismiss PNP personnel based on violations incurred and can recommend the filing of criminal charges,” Abella added. —JST, GMA News with a report from Reuters