By JOEY NACALABAN
THE lawyer from Misamis Oriental who prompted a International Criminal Court prosecutor to start a preliminary investigation into the killings blamed on the government’s “war on drugs” yesterday expressed hope that the tribunal would go after President Duterte.
In a statement sent to the Gold Star Daily, lawyer Jude Josue Sabio said the ICC can still open an investigation and hold Duterte criminally accountable despite the Philippines’ withdrawal from the international court that took effect on Sunday.
Sabio said, “His (Duterte’s) ICC exit will not stop an ICC probe.”
“I remain in robust optimism that the ICC will open an investigation based on the totality of evidence,” he said.
The evidence, according to Sabio, include the statements of Edgar Matobato and Arturo Lascañas, self-confessed hitmen of the so-called “Davao Death Squad,” who linked Duterte to numerous killings in Davao when he was the city’s mayor.
Sabio said Matobato’ and Lascañas’s revelations are corroborated by the repeated public admissions supposedly made by Duterte.
“I am confident that the ICC will stand as a firm bedrock for global justice!” reads part of Sabio’s statement.
At the same time, Sabio called the Duterte administration’s exit from the ICC “a national and international disgrace for the Philippines.”
He said, “Mr. Duterte is resorting to a legal pretext to conveniently escape from responsibility for the death squad killings that he masterminded in his Davao Death Squad and that he continued with brutal impunity in his infamous war on drugs.”
Sabio added: “His withdrawal will be remembered in notoriety demonstrating the deepest abyss into which the country has descended.”
Duterte has repeatedly said the killings that took place because of his “war on drugs” were the result of legitimate police operations.
He also said several times that the ICC has no jurisdiction over him, maintaining that the treaty is “not effective nor enforceable in the Philippines.”
He also insisted that “an international law cannot supplant, prevail or diminish a domestic law.”
Assuming that the ICC can have jurisdiction over him, Duterte argued that the acts he allegedly committed do not fall under the enumerated grounds by which the ICC can assume jurisdiction.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo, meanwhile, said the Philippines never became a state party to the Rome Statute that created the ICC and so, there is “no basis” for it to investigate the Duterte administration’s “war on drugs.”
“The Philippines cannot leave that which (it) has never joined in the first place. Our position on the matter remains clear, unequivocal and inflexible: The Philippines never became a state party to the Rome Statute, which created the ICC. As far as we are concerned, this tribunal is non-existent and its actions a futile exercise,” Panelo said in a statement.
He said that if the Hague-based tribunal should proceed with an investigation, it would mean that it is violating its own provisions by meddling in the country’s sovereignty. (with reports from PNA)