Fatuo Bensuoda, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), recently issued a statement saying there is “reasonable basis to believe” crimes against humanity were committed in the anti-drug campaign of the Duterte leadership.
The avowal promptly sprang the Palace into defensive mood, arguing that since March 2018, the Philippines has already withdrawn as ICC member, and that, as a result, the Court has no jurisdiction over the country.
It also vehemently denied sponsoring State-ordered killings. These feel-good and awkward statements, though, are porous and contradictory.
Interviewed in 2016 by the British media, President Duterte proudly proclaimed he killed three drugs-linked persons while serving as mayor of Davao City and, as newly elected president, publicly declared his intention to kill “all” drug addicts and even ordered the police on national television to kill the pushers with a promise of pardon should they be convicted. Although the statement later carried a qualifying phrase that the kills must be done within legal parameters, the clarification, from the viewpoint of pundits, was mere defensive mechanism.
Just recently, in a statement that sounds more like a capitulation, he cleverly told the COVID-struck archipelago he would be willing to go to jail if he had committed “something.” Earlier, presidential mouthpiece Harry Roque rebutted the prosecutor’s position, saying the country cannot honor ICC’s jurisdiction because the Philippines is not a member anymore of that body.
What Roque has conveniently set aside is the fact that effect of withdrawal under the Rome Statute happens only a year after extraction, which means the ICC, in case the country is indicted, can still probe anti-drug crimes and human rights violations committed prior to March 2019.
The largest worry the Palace faces now is the collective global movements discrediting the government’s drugs campaign and human rights record. With anti-Duterte sectors going for the guttural, any disapproving ICC resolution in the next few months will have economic repercussions despite assertions the national leadership can survive all the undercurrents.
But developments pinning the Duterte presidency against the wall seem to get an accelerated support. Recently, the World Communion of Reformed Churches, with 100 million members in 110 countries and comprising 233 denominations, has enlisted its involvement in gathering documents for the ICC to strengthen the case against the Philippines.
The effort may be frowned upon by the Palace as stupidity, but the snowballing effects of the recent developments can create long-term complications notwithstanding Roque’s feelgood flimsy, verbal acrobatics. The unfolding events are not rollercoaster rides; they are realistic images of battering rams hitting up front the credibility of the government.