PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo Duterte could face charges for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the spate of killings that followed his declared war on drugs, Senator Leila de Lima said.
According to the Inquirer, De Lima told a media interview that her claim was not meant to threaten the president but was based on fact.
“There are some experts who are saying that… if this spate of killings go unabated and unchecked, it could reach that point that the ICC could send a prosecutor to our country and investigate all these for possible prosecution under the Rome Statute,” she was quoted saying.
“This is not a joke. The last thing we need right now is for our dear president to be subjected to an investigation by an international tribunal like the International Criminal Court.”
“I am not threatening the president. I am just stating a fact,” she added.
De Lima pointed out that hundreds have been killed since the Duterte administration took over, and said this can be viewed as “widespread” and trigger greater international concern.
Should charges be brought against Duterte at the ICC, she warned, the president would not be protected by immunity.
Inquirer said its “Kill List” showed that a total of 601 drug suspects were killed since Duterte was installed last June. Other media reports say that in the same period, over 5,000 drug suspects have been arrested while nearly 600,000 have turned themselves in.
According to GMA Network, De Lima today also urged Duterte to keep close watch over the hearings to be held this month by the Senate committee on justice, which she chairs.
The committee will be holding a two-day inquiry on the drug killings beginning August 21.
Last Friday, the U.S. Embassy reportedly told the Duterte government that the hundreds of millions of military aid to the Philippines depended on its adherence to rule of law and respect for human rights.
“We are concerned by reports regarding extrajudicial killings of individuals suspected to have been involved in drug activity in the Philippines,” it said.
“We strongly urge the Philippines to ensure its law enforcement efforts are consistent with its human rights obligations,” the embassy said, according to AFP’s report.
A spokesperson from the Philippine foreign department yesterday confirmed to the news agency that the government took note of the U.S.’ views on the matter.
“Nevertheless, while pursuing this objective, the Philippine government is committed to the rule of law, and the protection of human rights for all.”
The official also said that Filipino authorities were investigating the killings and will “bring the perpetrators to justice”.
Earlier this month, Duterte said in a speech that most drug dealers and addicts slain in gunbattles with police had put up a fight, but added that he was sure some were “salvaged,” a local term for extrajudicial killings usually by law enforcers.
Despite admitting to possible abuses, however, the president refused to relax his stance in the war against drugs.
According to the Inquirer, Duterte said he would provide “protection” towards state forces involved in shooting incidents.
“For as long as it is done in the performance of the duty by the police and soldiers, that is my responsibility, that is my official and personal guarantee,” he was quoted as saying.
“If there are police involved in an encounter, do not investigate them anymore, that is my order,” he added.