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Sara Duterte: ‘I don’t need a death squad;’ says cooperating with ICC puts PH to shame

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Vice President Sara Duterte belied accusations linking her to the infamous ‘Davao Death Squad’ (DDS) though she expressed readiness to face this complaint, but only before a Filipino judge in a Philippine court, not the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Duterte issued her statement Tuesday, Jan. 23, upon receiving word that a witness testified against her alleged involvement with DDS when she was serving in the local government of Davao City. The vice president strongly denied this, saying she doesn’t need a ‘death squad’ to accomplish things.

“In the years when I served as Vice Mayor and Mayor of Davao City, my name was neither discussed nor linked with the so-called Davao Death Squad. But after I won as Vice President, suddenly there was a witness against me and now I’m being accused in the International Criminal Court,” she said.

“I don’t need a death squad for things that I can do myself. Nevertheless, I will face any accusation against me. But I will only face any charge against me before a Filipino judge—and only before a Filipino court,” Duterte added.

The Vice President emphasized that she “will not participate or be part of the process that will not only bring shame to the country, but also crush the dignity of our judges, courts, and the entire justice system of the Philippines.”

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“Let us not humiliate our nation in the whole world by allowing foreigners to interfere and intervene in Philippine affairs. This preoccupation to submit to the outsiders is a slap to our Filipino heroes, who risked their lives and fought for our freedom,” Duterte noted further in Tagalog.

Her statement comes as the ICC investigates her father, former President Rodrigo Duterte, in connection with his “war on drugs,” his flagship anti-narcotics campaign that resulted in the questionable deaths of many.

Former senator Antonio Trillanes IV claimed a warrant of arrest is expected to be issued against the elder Duterte, and other respondents, in relation to the ICC probe. The Vice President was reportedly among the respondents because she approved “tokhang” operations during her tenure in Davao City.

The DDS is a vigilante group that allegedly carried out summary killings of suspected criminals, including drug dealers, in Davao City. Sara Duterte was vice mayor of the city from 2007-2010 and mayor from 2010 to 2013.

The Philippines became a member state of the ICC in 2011, but withdrew from the Rome Statute in 2019. Trillanes claimed that the ICC investigators completed their probe “as far as the principal accused is concerned.”

Last September 2021, the Hague-based international tribunal authorized an official probe into the drug war, but the investigation was temporarily suspended in November of the same year on the request of the Philippine government.

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