WATCH | ‘A MAN WHO MUST BE STOPPED’ | NY Times backs ICC probe of Duterte

April 26, 2017 - 1:41 PM
(Reuters file)

MANILA, Philippines — The New York Times pulled out all the stops, urging the International Criminal Court in an editorial to “promptly open a preliminary investigation” into the thousands of killings in the drug war waged by President Rodrigo Duterte, who the newspaper described as “a man who must be stopped.”

The article, bylined by the Times’ editorial board, was written following the request filed before the ICC by lawyer Jude Sabio, counsel of Edgar Matobato, the self-confessed member of the Davao Death Squad, which Duterte allegedly created while mayor of Davao City and whose murderous record supposedly presaged the present-day drug war deaths.


Sabio asked the ICC to charge Duterte and 11 other officials with mass murder and crimes against humanity.

Staunch Duterte critic Senator Antonio Trillanes IV quickly reacted, saying he agreed with the Times editorial. Trillanes also twitted Duterte allies who have dismissed the information filed by Sabio, “as if they have actually read” it and “presume to know wat the ICC would do.”

The Times editorial acknowledged that “there are reasons why the ICC might be reluctant to go after Mr. Duterte,” foremost of which “he is enormously popular with many Filipinos, for whom narcotics are a major scourge.”

It also noted that the ICC was created to prosecute crimes against humanity “only when … national courts are unwilling or unable to do so.” This is also an argument used by those, including Duterte critics, who criticized Sabio’s move as premature and likely to fail.

But the Times said the overwhelmingly pro-Duterte House of Representatives might provide that justification if it “quashes, as expected,” the impeachment complaint filed by Magdalo party-list Representative Gary Alejano.

It maintained that “there is already more than enough evidence for a preliminary investigation, which would send an unmistakable signal to Mr. Duterte that he may eventually have to answer for his crimes, and would encourage governments to take measures against him, such as imposing tariffs on Philippine goods.”

The Times said even if the findings against Duterte by human rights groups, opposition politicians or self-confessed death squad members Matobato and retired policeman Arturo Lascanas were not enough, “there are Mr. Duterte’s savage words. ‘Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now, there is three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them,’ he told reporters in one of his most outrageous statements (and misstating the figure for the Holocaust, which is six million).”

Trillanes agreed that “the evidence against Duterte is quite substantial.”

“He declared a policy of killings that left thousands of Filipinos slaughtered. He didn’t lift a finger to stop it. Worse, Duterte even encouraged it,” he said.

He also noted that, because of presidential immunity, “the only way for our courts to prosecute Duterte is when he is impeached. In other words, if his allies railroad the impeachment complaint, the ICC steps in.”

“So, pick your poison, Mr. Duterte,” he said.

For her part, former Commission on Human Rights chair Loretta Ann Rosales urged both Duterte’s allies and critics to “refrain from framing this process to suit vested political ends” even as she urged people “to take note” of the request for the ICC to probe Duterte and to “study the matter closely.”

Rosales called Sabio’s move “an important step towards strengthening the rule of law: one, in terms of holding the individuals concerned accountable for their actions, words and inactions; and two, in terms of subjecting the current approach to drug abuse  — Mr. Duterte’s so-called ‘War on Drugs’ — to a thorough and objective judicial review.”

She noted that “the filing of a complaint is just the beginning of a rigorous process of judicial determination” for which “there is no room for politics.”

“Not for one moment should anyone use the ICC, and for this particular case, as tool for propaganda and deal-making,” Rosales said. (with reports from Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, News5-InterAksyon)

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