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Charge Rodrigo Duterte with mass murder, lawyer tells The Hague
New York Times - April 24, 2017
The lawyer, Jude Josue Sabio, said in a 77-page complaint that Mr. Duterte was the "mastermind" of a campaign that has killed more than 9,400 people, mostly poor young men, since 1988, when Mr. Duterte was first elected mayor of Davao City in the southern Philippines.
"The situation in the Philippines reveals a terrifying, gruesome and disastrous continuing commission of extrajudicial executions or mass murder from the time President Duterte was the mayor of Davao City," the complaint says.
Mr. Sabio represents two men who say they were paid assassins for Mr. Duterte when he was mayor of Davao City, but filed the case on his own. The court has the authority to accept cases brought by individuals as well as by nations and the United Nations Security Council.
Mr. Duterte was elected president last year after pledging to kill criminals as part of what he called a war on drugs. Since taking office last June, he has repeatedly urged the police to kill suspects and has promised to protect or pardon police officers who are prosecuted.
According to police statistics, more than 4,000 people have been killed by the police in antidrug operations or by vigilantes in drug-related cases since Mr. Duterte became president. Mr. Sabio's complaint puts that number at more than 8,000.
In addition, the complaint cites the killings of more than 1,400 people who Mr. Sabio and rights advocates say were killed over 28 years in Mr. Duterte's anti-crime campaign in Davao City.
The complaint also names Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre; the national police chief, Ronald dela Rosa; House of Representatives Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez; and two senators, Peter Cayetano and Richard Gordon.
The Duterte government did not respond immediately to the filing, but last month, after it was accused of crimes against humanity by Human Rights Watch, a spokesman for Mr. Duterte rejected that allegation.
"A war on criminality is
not a war on humanity," said the spokesman, Ernesto Abella. "On the contrary,
it is a war precisely to protect humanity from a modern-day evil. To say
otherwise is to undermine society's legitimate desire to be free from fear
and to pander to the interests of the criminals."
Court complaint accuses Duterte of mass murder
A Filipino lawyer asked the International Criminal Court in The Hague to prosecute President Rodrigo Duterte and 11 other Philippine officials over the killings of thousands of people over three decades.
The International Criminal Court, which handles cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, was founded by international agreement. The Philippines signed on in 2011.
The court may take cases only under certain conditions, including when a nation's own judicial system is unable or unwilling to investigate or prosecute.
Mr. Sabio has represented two men, Edgar Matobato and Arturo Lascanas, who say they were members of the Davao Death Squad, a unit they say was created and directed by Mr. Duterte when he was mayor of Davao City.
Both have said publicly that the death squad was formed with the aim of going after small-time drug dealers but was also used to eliminate Mr. Duterte's political opponents.
Mr. Sabio's complaint says that after becoming president, Mr. Duterte replicated the methods used by the Davao Death Squad nationwide, including the planting of false evidence, cash payments to killers, cooperation with the local authorities, and police participation and command.
"The basic material hallmarks or elements in the extrajudicial executions in the Davao Death Squad in Davao City and in the continued extrajudicial executions after President Duterte became the president are too numerous and too obvious to escape scant attention," the complaint says.
The complaint cites investigations by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International and a statement from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines denouncing the antidrug campaign as a "reign of terror."
Mr. Sabio argues that the international court has the responsibility to investigate and prosecute the people responsible for the killings because an impartial investigation would be impossible in the Philippines, where the president and his allies control the country's political and legal systems.
There have been few investigations by the police of killings by police officers, who stand to be pardoned if convicted. An investigation in the Philippine Senate was derailed by Mr. Duterte's allies in Congress, and the senator leading it jailed on drug charges she says were intended to silence her. The Philippines Human Rights Commission conducted an investigation in 2009 of the killings in Davao, but no prosecution resulted.
An opposition lawmaker filed an impeachment complaint against Mr. Duterte last month, accusing him of murder and crimes against humanity, but the resolution has little chance of passing in a House dominated by Duterte allies.
"During the time that he was the mayor of Davao City, President Duterte never even lifted a finger to investigate the thousand killings undertaken under the Davao Death Squad," the complaint says. "This is precisely because on hindsight he is personally involved."