Manila, Dec 17 (efe-epa).- Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said he is “not scared” of an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC), after the court confirmed this week that there are indications of crimes against humanity having been committed during his war on drugs.
“I will die for my principles… if I end up in jail, that’s okay with me, as long as I did what was right,” the controversial president said in a televised speech Wednesday night, insisting that he never ordered any killings.
“I’m not scared,” he added.
Duterte, who made his brutal war on drugs his main electoral promise, claimed that he has never made death threats against anyone and urged human rights watchdogs to review his speeches.
“The problem is I didn’t kill anyone…. So you human rights activists, where will you go? Review my words: ‘Enforce the law in accordance with what you learned in the training stage of your being a law enforcer.’ No fool would say, ‘Kill him,'” snapped Duterte, who in March 2018 ordered the Philippines to leave the ICC’s Treaty of Rome to avoid a possible investigation, a decision that became effective a year later, on Mar. 16, 2019.
“I never said to kill. But I said: ‘Go out and destroy the drug apparatus,'” the 75-year-old president added.
Numerous media records contradict this statement, since the president has in the past told police to kill anyone suspected of consuming or selling drugs and granted them immunity for doing so. In addition, in April he told authorities to “shoot them dead,” referring to anyone who defied lockdown orders in place to contain the Covid-19 epidemic.
These threats, which he has also made against activists, social leaders and human rights defenders, are not only documented widely in the media, but also in the official transcripts of his speeches at the presidential palace.
The ICC prosecutor handling the preliminary examination into the Philippines, Fatou Bensouda, said in a report published Tuesday that there is a “reasonable basis” to believe crimes against humanity have been committed during the war on drugs.
The file on the Philippines was opened in February 2018 following several complaints, and could move to a formal investigation in the first half of 2021, according to Bensouda.
The ICC will open an investigation if it determines that the Philippine justice system has been unable or unwilling to prosecute those responsible for the deaths in the drug campaign, in which some 8,000 suspects have been killed in police raids, according to the latest official figures.
Human rights groups raise the figure to some 30,000 victims killed by authorities or by hitmen taking advantage of the campaign’s climate of impunity.
To date, there has only been one conviction in the framework of the campaign, for the murder in August 2017 of 17-year-old Kian de los Santos, in which three police officers were found guilty and sentenced to jail in November 2018. EFE-EPA