By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
President Rodrigo Duterte remains unfazed by the move of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC’s) Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) to conduct a preliminary examination of the crimes against humanity allegedly committed in pursuit of his “war against drugs” campaign.
The OTP is launching a preliminary examination on the allegations against the President filed by lawyer Jude Sabio before the ICC with self-confessed hit man Edgar Matobato as witness in the killings in Davao City allegedly carried out by the infamous Davao Death Squad on orders of Duterte.
According to Duterte, he is not afraid if the OTP proceeds with an investigation. The President said he is ready to face trial so he can defend himself.
“I hope you come. And I hope that we can be together in a room. I would ask for that rare privilege of talking to you. [Just] the two of us in a room. I’ll welcome you. And if you want to find me guilty, go ahead. So be it,” he said in a press conference in Davao City Friday night, referring to ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.
The President also wondered why Bensouda chose to review the events in the Philippines first when there are many other incidents and deaths happening in other parts of the world.
“I cannot see the reason why I’m the first head of state to be chosen by these idiots when there are so many things [happening elsewhere],” Duterte said in a business forum late Friday night following his press conference in Davao City.
However, Duterte said, he knew beforehand that an examination will be launched against him.
“I have this transmittal. I was already listening to the tapes of their conversation. It was provided to me by another country but the conversation was in the Philippines and New York. And there was this, ‘See you in the headquarters when the case is filed’, ” he said.
“I knew in advance that they were [doing] it. Problem is, this case, from the looks of it, it’s all politics,” he added.
Duterte also said that it would be impossible for the ICC to have him imprisoned because no international treaty is bigger than the Constitution being upheld in the country.
“The treaty shall form part of the laws of the land. In this city, in this country, alam ninyo ‘yan (you know that), every penal or punitive measure must be published in the Official Gazette. That is required [because] without that, you denied me my due process,” he said.
“Paano mo ako makukulong ngayon? Because, certainly, a treaty cannot be more powerful than a Constitution. It’s just an agreement incorporated to form part of the law of our land. But it does not release people in government from complying with the rules of the Constitution,” he added.
In case the ICC review on him flourishes, the Chief Executive said he prefers to be killed for doing something right for his country—the way the Philippines’ national hero Jose Rizal died—instead of being locked away.
“If you convict me, find a country that promotes death penalty and kill me by a firing squad. I would be very happy to face them,” Duterte said.
“It would be a distinct honor for me because our foremost hero, Mr. Rizal, he’s our greatest hero…he was shot by the Spaniards on that spot [in Rizal Park and] his monument is [there] right now because of his defiance,” he added.
“I’m no Rizal. I am not bright as Rizal. But I would like just to imitate the way Rizal died. And I would be happy to…before they pull the trigger, I would say, ‘F*** you guys,'” he continued.
Sick and tired
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said that Duterte welcomes the move of the ICC OTP because the President is sick and tired of being accused of engaging in a killing spree.
“The President and I met about this extensively for more than two hours last night. The President has said that he also welcomes the preliminary examination because he is sick and tired of being accused of the commission of crimes against humanity,” he said in a Palace press briefing Thursday.
Roque said he is confident the talk on the drug war at the ICC will not even go past the stage of preliminary examination.
Malacañang thinks the move of the OTP is a “waste of time and resources” as it is not yet time for the ICC to intervene in the Philippines’ domestic matters, citing a provision of the Rome Statute that the ICC can only exercise its jurisdiction when domestic courts are unable or unwilling to act on local issues, Roque added.