THE International Criminal Court in The Hague on Friday said that it is closely following President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs to see if the spate of deaths in the last three months may be considered extrajudicial killings that may warrant prosecution.
In response, the Palace said the drug-related deaths, including vigilante killings, were not state-sanctioned.
“My office is aware of worrying reported extrajudicial killings of alleged drug dealers and users in the Philippines, which may have led to over 3,000 deaths in the past three months,” Fatou Bensouda, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, said.
“I am deeply concerned about these alleged killings and the fact that public statements of high officials of the Republic of the Philippines seem to condone such killings and further seem to encourage state forces and civilians alike to continue targeting these individuals with lethal force,” she added.
Since July, Duterte has overseen a brutal crackdown on illegal drugs that has left more than 3,300 people dead, both at the hands of police as well as in unexplained circumstances, according to official data.
In his speeches, Duterte specifically stressed that he sees nothing wrong with his threats to kill drug lords and pushers, citing the gravity of the country’s drug problem calls for it.
“It is never wrong, I repeat, it is never wrong to threaten criminals. Whatever is the endgame of a particular incident or an event. What… It does not really matter. It is perfectly all right,” he said.
“As far as I’m concerned, as your President and a lawyer, that I have every right to threaten criminals. How it develops to the endgame is another problem,” Duterte added.
During the campaign season for the 2016 polls, the then-Davao City mayor threatened to dump dead criminals’ bodies into Manila Bay to fatten the fish there.
The President has made no qualms about the cruel fate awaiting drug lords and pushers who choose to resist arrest instead of surrendering to authorities, saying policemen can shoot them if necessary.
The United Nations, the European Union, the United States and international human rights groups have all raised concern over alleged extrajudicial killings.
Extrajudicial killings may fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court if they are committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population pursuant to a State policy to commit such an attack.
“Let me be clear: any person in the Philippines who incites or engages in acts of mass violence including by ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing, in any other manner, to the commission of crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC is potentially liable to prosecution before the Court,” she added.
The Palace, however, said Duterte is willing to subject himself for an investigation before the high court because the administration never condoned any drug-related killings in the country.
“Drug-related killings, including vigilante killings, are not state-sanctioned. Many of those who died were killed during legitimate police operations which are currently undergoing investigation as directed by the President,” Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said.
In the same statement, Andanar echoed statements of Senator Richard Gordon, who practically absolved the President over drug-related killings in the Senate hearings on extrajudicial killings.
“Even the chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights who conducted a legislative probe on extrajudicial killings has been quoted as saying that “there is no proof that the killings were state-sponsored,” the Palace mouthpiece said.
“In any case, the President has articulated that he is willing to submit himself for an investigation before any body,” he added.
Describing his critics as “fools,” Duterte reiterated his position he was not breaking any domestic laws by threatening to kill criminals and pledged the crime war would continue until there were no more illegal drugs in society.
“I will not stop. Be sure of it, you can cast it in whatever stone. I will not stop until the last pusher, until the last drug lord is taken away.”
Duterte, 71, won May elections in a landslide on a pledge to eradicate drugs.
Last month, Duterte said he would be “happy to slaughter” three million drug addicts, and likened his campaign to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s efforts to exterminate Jews in Europe.
He later apologied for his Hitler reference, but said he was “emphatic” about wanting to kill all drug addicts.
Since Duterte took office, police have killed 1,578 people and 2,151 have died in unexplained circumstances, according to official figures released Friday.
The total of 3,729 is 368 more than the previous police update released last week. With AFP
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