THE prospect of impeachment and an international court case over the thousands of drug-related killings in the Philippines has done nothing to waver President Rodrigo Duterte from his anti-crime campaign.
The straight-talking politician who has made headlines the world over for his administration’s war against drugs has vowed once again to stay the course, even if it meant losing his seat in government.
“I will not be intimidated by ICC, impeachment,” he was quoted saying in Inquirer on Sunday.
He was referring to the impeachment complaint filed against him last week and a plan to sue him in the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague over his alleged crimes.
The president has been linked to the over 8,000 deaths that occurred in the nine months of his presidency and hundreds of others when he was mayor of Davao City. Human rights groups have accused Duterte of committing crimes against humanity by inciting the killings, and have called for international investigations against the leader.
“They can do their worst, I can do better in my performance as a worker in government, period. This is a democracy,” he reportedly declared.
The leader also said if it was his time to go, he would regard it as his destiny to do so. Meanwhile, he said, he has been focused on fulfilling his campaign promise to keep the country free of drugs, corruption and other crimes.
“I will deliver on my promises, even if it would cost me my life, my honour, and the presidency. I can lose them all but I will comply with my promise,” he said.
“The drive against corruption, the drive against criminality and drugs will resume and it will continue.”
On criticism of his administration’s methods to fight crime, Duterte pointed out the solution was simple: “Drop the shabu (meth) if you want to be alive. If you do not want trouble with government, stop trafficking. It’s as simple as that. I will not for a moment be out of focus on that.”
Last Thursday, opposition representative Gary Alejano filed an impeachment complaint against Duterte – the first attempt so far to remove the country’s most powerful man.
In the complaint, Alejano said Duterte was responsible for the deaths of over 8,000 drug suspects and accused him of betrayal of public trust, corruption that allegedly led to him to amass some US$40 million in unexplained wealth, as well as other high crimes in relation to the administration’s war on drugs.
Duterte’s supporters immediately thumbed their noses at the application, calling it a waste of time, “fabricated” and part of a destabilisation plot against the president. Political observers repeatedly cited Duterte’s support in both houses of Congress in predicting the vote’s likely failure.
The impeachment complaint will need the support of one-third of the House for it to make it to Senate for trial. For a conviction to stick, a two-thirds Senate vote is then needed.
But with more than 260 of the House’s 292 members belonging to the pro-Duterte faction, the vote is not expected to make it an inch past the blocks.
Despite that, however, the vote is expected to help lend credence to an effort by a lawyer to bring a case against Duterte at the ICC.
The lawyer, Jude Josue Sabio, represents Edgar Matobato and Arturo Lascanas, two self-professed former hitmen of the Davao Death Squad. The men claim Duterte was the squad’s mastermind when he was Davao mayor and that he was the brains behind scores of killings that took place during his two-decade-long tenure.
According to reports, Sabio plans to file a case by April.
Former Philippine president Joseph Estrada was the last leader to be impeached by Congress, following allegations of corruption and violation of the Constitution in 2000. His impeachment trial was stalled, however, by an uprising which eventually saw him forced from office.