MANILA, Philippines – The head of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and a party-list lawmaker have taken the cudgels for President Rodrigo Duterte, claiming the complaint against him and other top government officials filed before the International Criminal Court (ICC) will not prosper.
But a leading critic of the chief executive at the Senate welcomed the filing of the complaint, underscoring the need for an independent body to determine the truth behind allegations that Duterte had committed mass murder.
On Tuesday, April 25, PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa said it would be too stupid for the ICC to believe the allegations made by the lawyer of confessed hitman Edgar Matobato against Duterte. He dismissed as baseless Jude Sabio’s claim that the drug-related killings in the Philippines were state-sponsored.
“Napakagago ng ICC kung maniwala sila sa abogado na iyon. Sino magsabi na state sponsored ang pagpatay?” said Dela Rosa, among the respondents in the complaint filed by Sabio before the international tribunal based in The Hague, Netherlands.
The PNP chief nevertheless welcomed the charges against him as he said this was better than him not doing anything to help solve the worsening crime situation in the country.
“Okay na i-charge ka gano’n, kaysa pag retire ko, sinabi na wala ka ginawa,” said Dela Rosa.
But Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV on Tuesday said Sabio’s move “is a welcome development.”
“We (will) now have a truly independent body that could find out the whole truth behind the slaughter of thousands of Filipinos and prosecute those behind it to include the enablers who allowed or encouraged it to happen,” said Trillanes.
Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque countered Trillanes’ position and said that the ICC “was established as a court of last resort” and thus “was intended to complement, not replace, national courts in ending the gravest crimes against the international community.”
“I maintain that while I fully support the fight against impunity, I do not believe that engaging the ICC is appropriate,” Roque said in a statement issued Tuesday.
Like Dela Rosa, Roque also believes that the complaint against Duterte and other key government officials was orchestrated and unworthy of being heard by the international tribunal.
“(It) is premature, suspect, and bound to fail,” Roque said.
He said that there was no need to elevate the allegations against Duterte before the ICC because the Senate had “independently” investigated claims that the President had been involved in the killings carried out by vigilante group Davao Dearth Squad and the Commission on Human Rights “is conducting its independent investigation on drug-related violence.”
“It cannot be said that the Philippines has not or cannot investigate these concerns. Thus, it appears that the filing of this letter at this moment is an attempt to discredit the President and the Philippine government as the ASEAN Summit begins,” said Roque.
“It is regrettable how maneuvers like this to cast a negative light upon the Philippines have become more and more common. I urge all those who seek a better Philippines to have more faith in the systems in place,” he added.
Roque explained that Sabio’s complaint “does not formally initiate any case before the ICC” because “it is up to the prosecutor to determine whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation.”
“Only then will she submit to the Pre-Trial Chamber a request for authorization of an investigation. I do not believe this case will even reach that stage.”