Lawyers claim Duterte’s ‘admission’ on extrajudicial killings is evidence

October 1, 2018 - 4:01 PM
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President Rodrigo Duterte lividly gestures with his finger while speaking in public. (Presidential Photo/Alfred Frias)

A number of legal experts are claiming that President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent statements calling the series of extrajudicial killings in the country his “only sin” is evidence that can be used against him.

Former Bayan Muna Party-list representative and human rights lawyer Neri Colmenares said on Twitter that even though Duterte said that there was “no evidence” against him, the statement alone could submitted as evidence in the complaint filed against him at the International Criminal Court.

Colmenares is one of the lawyers representing the families of the alleged EJK victims who filed the complaint in August 2018.

Human rights lawyer and law professor Antonio La Viña echoed the same stance, writing in a column that Duterte’s statement can be taken literally and seriously in light of his previous statements on the topic of extrajudicial killings.

“And for sure, the admission is not a joke; he is actually flaunting his impunity. His words are to be taken literally. He means them. It is consistent with previous statements about the collateral damage of his war against illegal drugs,” La Viña wrote.

Jude Sabio, the lawyer who first filed a complaint against Duterte at the ICC in April 2017, said that while the government cannot investigate his involvement in the killings, the ICC however could prosecute him.

Sabio said in a radio interview with dzBB that while the government cannot investigate him, the ICC under the principal of complementarity or lack of overlapping jurisdiction can prosecute him.

“Duterte just confirmed that he is a killer,” Sabio said in Filipino during the interview.

The doctrine of presidential immunity from suit under the 1987 Constitution prevents the filing of charges against an incumbent president.

Duterte has been scored by his critics for the statements given at a speech in front of career government officials in late September 2018.

He has also been criticized for joking that the rice shortage was the result of rehabilitated drug addicts once again being able to eat.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque has countered the calls to include the statement as evidence in the ICC probe, saying that the president was merely joking and only wanted to emphasize that he was not guilty of other crimes.

Roque also reportedly said that Duterte felt “unfortunate” about the increase in drug-related deaths in the country.

Duterte against the ICC

Duterte announced in March 2018 the Philippines’ withdrawal from the Rome Statute that created the ICC, following ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s attempt at a preliminary investigation into the extrajudicial killings in the country.

Duterte said that Bensouda’s investigation constituted a violation of the due process and presumption of innocence granted to him by the Philippine’s constitution.

He also slammed former United Nations Human Rights chief Zeid Raad Al-Hussein and UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard, calling their criticism of his administration’s war on drug war and support for the ICC’s investigation “baseless, unprecedented outrageous attacks.”