Duterte to ICC: Kill threats only expression of personal outrage

MANILA, Philippines – Days after the International Criminal Court (ICC) took the first step in probing his controversial drug war, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte tried to soften his threats to kill drug suspects, saying these are mere expressions of outrage.

"But when I express myself, 'I will kill you,' I am expressing a personal outrage. I never ordered anybody, not a single security guard even, to kill this Mr Santos, kill this Mr Cruz," said Duterte on Tuesday, February 13.

He was speaking at the oath-taking of new government officials in Malacañang.

He accused human rights groups of claiming he makes such threats to "embolden" police to kill drug suspects.

But the police, he said, are "told to only obey legal orders."

Duterte admitted there are cops who have abused his anti-drug campaign but insisted these are just the rotten apples in the bunch.

"Of course, marami talagang tarantado na pulis (there are lots of foolish policemen) but not as much as those dedicated to the service of their people," he said.

The Philippine President then repeated his willingness to be held accountable for the drug war by the International Criminal Court.

He even exaggerated that if a guilty verdict would send him in front of a firing squad, he would gladly die the way Philippine national hero Jose Rizal did.

"I can face the ICC. If they want to indict me and convict me, fine. I will gladly do it for my country...I would love to experience what Rizal experienced," said Duterte.

Duterte outlines argument

In speeches after the ICC's announcement, Duterte has been outlining his defense against a possible guilty verdict.

At first, he attempted to claim that he cannot be declared guilty as the Rome Statute, the treaty which created the ICC and led to the Philippines' membership to it, was supposedly never published in the Official Gazette.

"Our land says, the Philippine land republic says that before a penal statute for a punitive act can be a basis for prosecution, you have to publish it. Was there any publication? None," he said on February 9.

He also said he could not be penalized for promoting extrajudicial killings because the Revised Penal Code does not define extrajudicial killing.

"What is extrajudicial killing? If you accuse me of what is extrajudicial killing, there is no fucking provision of extrajudicial killing. It is not found anywhere," he said.

Next, Duterte pointed his finger at abuses committed by western countries like Britain, France, United States, and Italy in places like the Middle East.

The ICC has been closely monitoring the administration's drug war since 2016 after it received two complaints from lawyer Jude Sabio, and lawmakers Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, and Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano.

The complaint filed by Trillanes and Alejano mentioned Duterte's plentiful threats to kill criminals. (READ: HRW calls for independent probe to 'clarify' PH drug war toll)

Sabio's complaint cited the thousands who have died during the police's implementation of the drug war. Human rights groups and media have published reports alleging that, in some police operations, police killed suspects even if they did not fight back. (READ: The Impunity Series– Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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