Case vs Duterte filed in int’l court

A lawyer for confessed Davao Death Squad (DDS) hit man Edgar Matobato on Monday filed crimes against humanity charges against President Duterte and 11 of his allies in the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague over the killings of suspected criminals when he was mayor of Davao City and thousands of drug suspects in his brutal war on drugs.

In a 77-page complaint submitted to the ICC, lawyer Jude Josue Sabio cited “continuing mass murder” in the Philippines, as shown by the thousands of deaths in Mr. Duterte’s bloody campaign against crime and illegal drugs in Davao City, which he rolled out on a national scale after becoming President of the Philippines.

Malacañang slammed the filing of the complaint as part of efforts to embarrass Mr. Duterte on the eve of his playing host to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit.

“[It was] apparently meant to create negative news in the midst of the Philippines Asean debut,” presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.

Murderous era

Sabio told ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda that her speedy action on the complaint “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.”

From the time he was mayor of Davao City up to the time he became President, Mr. Duterte has been “repeatedly, unchangingly and continuously” committing mass murders “constituting crimes against humanity,” Sabio said in the complaint.

He said 1,400 people were killed in Davao City during Mr. Duterte’s long rule there as mayor and more than 7,000 people had been killed since Mr. Duterte launched his war on drugs after taking office as President at the end of June last year.

“Crimes against humanity are crimes of universal jurisdiction, but where a state like the Philippines fails to assume such universal jurisdiction for crimes against humanity continuously being committed in its very own territory, then the International Criminal Court will have to intervene [in] a situation that is grave by any human standard,” he said.

“These mass murders undertaken as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population of the Philippines, disproportionately an attack against the poor or impoverished civilian population, constitute a flagrant, wanton and willful violation of the nonderogable right to life enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other international human rights laws,” he said.

“The grim statistics of more than 7,000 drug-related killings cannot be anything but grave, especially if viewed in the context of just seven months since Rodrigo Duterte became the President, compared to only about 3,000 committed during the 20-year Marcos regime. These more than 7,000 drug-related killings translate to roughly 1,000 killings per month,” he said.

At that rate and with impunity prevailing, the body count will reach 72,000 if Mr. Duterte completes his six-year term, Sabio said.

Legal remedies in PH

Abella said the complaint would not prosper, as the ICC takes a case only when legal remedies in the country concerned has been exhausted.

Sabio and Matobato, he said, “did not avail [themselves of or] exhaust all domestic remedies allowed under the Philippine Constitution.”

“Furthermore, an independent Senate investigated the charges hurled against the President with [confessed] hit man Mr. Matobato as star witness. As such there is no unwillingness or inability on the part of the state to investigate and prosecute the President,” Abella said.

He insisted that the extrajudicial killings are not state-sponsored, as police “are conducting legitimate operations that require observance of operational protocols and those who breach procedures are made to answer before the law.”

Policemen found violating procedures can be investigated by the Philippine National Police through its Internal Affairs Service, which Abella said could “suspend or dismiss” erring officers and recommend their prosecution.

End impunity

“To end this impunity, the International Criminal Court is being resorted to as a court of last resort, given the gravity of the current human rights disaster in the Philippines,” Sabio said.

He said any investigation under the current administration would be futile because the officials with the mandate to investigate, being “alter egos and trusted men of President Duterte,” were “not in a position to contradict the actuations and pronouncements” of Mr. Duterte.

He pointed out that most of the President’s men “have announced in public their full support” for the war on drugs and “defended the extrajudicial or summary executions as part of legitimate police drug operations.”

Sabio’s complaint relies heavily on the accounts of Matobato, confessed DDS leader Arturo Lascañas and Ernesto Avasola, the reports of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch; Fr. Amado Picardal’s report titled “The Victims of the Davao Death Squad: Consolidated Report 1998-2015”; and media reports on the war on drugs quoting Mr. Duterte and his officials.

Accused of crimes against humanity with Mr. Duterte were Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II; the PNP chief, Director General Ronald dela Rosa; police Superintendents Edilberto Leonardo and Royina Garma; Speaker of the House of Representatives Pantaleon Alvarez; former Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno; SPO4 Sanson “Sonny” Buenaventura; National Bureau of Investigation Director Dante Gierran; Solicitor General Jose Calida, and Senators Richard Gordon and Alan Peter Cayetano.

Allies’ roles

Sabio said Aguirre’s comments that drug addicts had no human rights “make him criminally liable because he is contributing to the commission of the crime in any other way with the conscious aim of furthering the criminal purpose or activity of the death squads.”

Aguirre has “labeled the suspects without the benefit of due process and knowing that many of those who had been labeled were eventually killed either by the police or vigilantes,” Sabio said.

He said Aguirre was also the lawyer of Bienvenido Laud, the owner of the quarry where many of the DDS victims were said to have been buried.

According to Sabio, Matobato and Lascañas have said Dela Rosa took part in certain DDS operations when Mr. Duterte, the alleged founder of the death squad, was mayor of Davao City.

Matobato testified in the Senate in September about the DDS killings on Mr. Duterte’s orders, admitting to carrying out many of the killings.

Lascañas, who at first denied the existence of the DDS in a Senate testimony but turned around in February and confirmed that Mr. Duterte founded the squad and ordered the Davao killings, has fled to Singapore with his family, waiting to be summoned by the ICC.

Sabio alleged that Dela Rosa, as PNP chief, knows the activities of the national-level death squads killing drug suspects.

Dela Rosa also knows Leonardo and Garma, who has been tasked with overseeing death squad operations nationwide by Mr. Duterte, Sabio said.

Leonardo, a former officer in the Davao Regional Police, is now with the Manila Police District and has helped “design and operate the reward system” for Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs, he said.

Sabio accused Garma of responsibility for the drug killings in Central Visayas, where she is the head of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

Alvarez was charged for his comments that “clearly incite violence and mass murder, or further in a certain way the criminal purpose of President Duterte.”

Sueno, Sabio said, allowed police and village captains, who were under his administrative control, to carry out “Oplan Tokhang,” the police door-to-door campaign that “led to the discrimination [against] and vilification of those identified as drug users and dealers, and their eventual murder, persecution, mental torture and incarceration.”

Sabio alleged that Buenaventura handed out rewards to DDS hit men and had direct involvement in the death squad.

He accused Gierran of failing to investigate the “widespread and systematic” killings in the war on drugs, thus facilitating the continued commission of the crime.

Calida, he said, promised to defend policemen accused of summary killings “if the killings are committed as part of the war on drugs.”

His “enthusiastic promise to defend wrongdoing echoes and backs up President Duterte’s statements promising exoneration for those who follow his orders to kill, facilitating the commission of more murders,” Sabio said.

Gordon, chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, was included in the complaint for concluding that the extrajudicial killings in the war on drugs were not state-sponsored.

Cayetano was accused of “aiding and abetting the killings” through “speeches and public pronouncements denying extrajudicial killings,” thus encouraging the war on drugs.

Sabio said Cayetano attributed supposedly “safer” communities to the deaths of drug suspects and criminals.

The complaint said the actions of Gordon and Cayetano that led to the removal of Sen. Leila de Lima as chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights resulted in the “whitewash[ing]” and abrupt termination of the Senate inquiry into the extrajudicial killings.

De Lima, who investigated the Davao killings in 2009 as chair of the Commission on Human Rights, is detained on drug charges that the European Parliament has described as “spurious.”

Aguirre’s department accused her of receiving protection money from convicts trafficking drugs from their cells in New Bilibid Prison.

Sufficient basis

In his complaint, Sabio noted “sufficient factual and legal basis” for Bensouda’s office to confirm with the ICC Pretrial Chamber that there was enough evidence to put Mr. Duterte on trial for crimes against humanity.

Sabio requested Bensouda to investigate Mr. Duterte and his senior administration officials and, if the Pretrial Chamber finds enough evidence to put them on trial, issue a warrant for their arrest and detention in the ICC’s detention center in The Hague to prevent them from killing more people and potential witnesses.

In October last year, Bensouda warned that her office would be “closely” monitoring the developments in the Philippines, and warned government officials that they were potentially liable to prosecution in the ICC.

source: inquirer.net



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