MANILA, Philippines (5th UPDATE) – Filipino lawyer Jude Sabio filed a complaint against Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte before the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday, April 24, for alleged "mass murder" in the Philippines.
In a 78-page complaint published by the New York Times, Sabio requested that the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC "commit President Rodrigo Duterte and his senior government officials to the Trial Chamber for trial and that the Trial Chamber in turn, after trial, convict them and sentence them to corresponding prison sentence or life imprisonment."
Sabio cited the murder of at least 1,400 people by the alleged Davao Death Squad (DDS) when Duterte was Davao City mayor. He also mentioned the killing of at least 7,000 people in the Philippines under Duterte's presidency.
He said Duterte has been undertaking mass murder "repeatedly, unchangingly, and continuously" in the Philippines.
Sabio addressed the complaint to Fatou Bensouda, prosecutor at the ICC in The Hague, Netherlands.
Sabio titled his complaint, "The Situation of Mass Murder in the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte: The Mass Murderer."
"Your favorable action on this matter would not only serve the noble ends of international criminal justice but would also be the beginning of the end of this dark, obscene, murderous, and evil era in the Philippines," Sabio told Bensouda in his cover letter.
Sabio is the lawyer of self-confessed former DDS member Edgar Matobato. (READ: Edgar Matobato: Liar or truth-teller?)
His complaint before the ICC mentioned the testimonies of Matobato and another self-confessed former DDS member, Arturo Lascañas. (READ: Lascañas affidavit: Grisly stories 'just tip of bloody iceberg)
'Best practice' replicated
In his complaint before the ICC, Sabio said he has "direct proof beyond reasonable doubt" that Duterte's so-called "best practice" of killing suspected criminals in Davao City has been continued in his national war on drugs.
He explained that the DDS murders and the recent extrajudicial killings have the same elements:
Sabio also said the President's public pronouncements "express a loud and clear intention to promote, encourage, or incite the police and civilians to mass murder or violence."
He said the following individuals should also be held liable along with Duterte:
Bensouda's office confirmed to Agence France-Presse it had "received a communication earlier this morning by an attorney from the Philippines," adding it would "analyze the materials submitted, as appropriate" in line with the tribunal's guiding Rome Statute and make its decision later.
In October, Bensouda said she was "deeply concerned about these alleged killings and the fact that public statements from high officials of the... Philippines seem to condone such killings".
She warned that "any person in the Philippines who incites or engages in acts of mass violence including by ordering, requesting, encouraging ... the commission of crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC is potentially liable for prosecution before the court."
Palace condemns ICC complaint
Reacting to the complaint, the Palace said the document filed before the ICC was intended merely to "shame" Duterte.
"The intent of this filing in ICC is clearly to embarrass and shame the President, and undermine the duly constituted government of the Philippines," Philippine Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement sent to reporters.
In a separate statement on Monday, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it "has been made aware" of the complaint against Duterte before the ICC prosecutor in The Hague.
"As with any other submissions received by the Office of the Prosecutor, this will have to undergo thorough evaluation to determine whether it satisfies the Rome Statute's requirements for admissibility and jurisdiction," DFA spokesman Robespierre Bolivar said.
Duterte, however, has lashed out at critics of his war on drugs, saying this is needed to save the country's children.
Since beginning work in 2002, the ICC says the prosecutor's office has received some 10,000 requests from individuals, groups or countries around the world to investigate alleged crimes.
It is then up to the prosecutor to decide if there is enough cause to open a preliminary inquiry into whether a full-blown investigation is merited. There are currently 10 preliminary examinations, and 10 full investigations under way.
A total of 23 cases have been recognized, securing 9 convictions and one acquittal. Five trials are ongoing. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at email@example.com.