MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang slammed the complaint filed against President Rodrigo Duterte with the International Criminal Court, saying it is intended merely to "shame" the Chief Executive.
"The intent of this filing in ICC is clearly to embarrass and shame the President, and undermine the duly constituted government of the Philippines," said Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella on Monday, April 24, in a statement sent to media.
"It is a cynical effort against the reform-oriented agenda of the Duterte administration and of the betterment of the lives of the Filipino people," he added.
Earlier, lawyer Jude Sabio filed a 78-page complaint with the ICC, accusing Duterte of "mass murder." Sabio is the lawyer of self-confessed hitman and alleged former Davao Death Squad member Edgar Matobato.
Abella said it is more than coincidence that the complaint was filed days before the start of the 30th ASEAN Summit, the first international event to be hosted by Duterte.
"The timing of the filing of the case is suspect – apparently meant to create negative news in the midst of the Philippines ASEAN debut; as it cannot prosper," said Abella.
He also said that Sabio was wrong to file a complaint with the ICC since it is only "a court of last resort," which will only exercise jurisdiction if legal remedies in the Philippines have been exhausted.
"Atty Sabio or his client, Mr Edgardo Matobato, did not avail or exhaust all domestic remedies allowed under the Philippine Constitution," said Duterte's spokesman.
The Duterte government has shown its willingness to investigate, on its own, the extrajudicial killings being linked to the President's drug war, said Abella.
As proof of this willingness, he pointed to the Senate investigations into the killings and the Philippine National Police's probes of its erring personnel.
"The Philippine National Police (PNP) has an Internal Affairs Service (IAS) tasked to probe police accused of violating procedures. This body can suspend or dismiss PNP personnel based on violations incurred and can recommend the filing of criminal charges," said Abella.
The Palace repeated its assertion that the summary killings are "not state-sanctioned or state-sponsored" and that police observe all protocols when it comes to anti-drug operations.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo also dismissed Sabio's complaint as "baseless" and mere "black propaganda" against Duterte. – Rappler.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.