As it stands, the complaint against President Duterte at the International Criminal Court (ICC) is just that — a complaint.
To progress from this into being a case is a much more time-consuming and exacting task than simply handing in some papers.
What happens next, and how soon, is anybody’s guess.
But what will need to happen before the ICC can start to even think about preparing a case is for all domestic channels of justice to run dry.
Prominent critic of the president, Senator Antonio Trillanes said: “The only requirement left before ICC could assume jurisdiction is whether the local courts are unwilling and unable to prosecute him. But since Duterte has presidential immunity, the only way for our courts to prosecute Duterte is when he is impeached.
“In other words, if his allies railroad the impeachment complaint, the ICC steps in. So, pick your poison, Mr Duterte.”
So, assuming that the impeachment case against the president will fail, is there a realistic case against him?
It’s important to remember here that under international law, the president doesn’t have to be directly implicated in any killings, but can be liable for inciting them.
ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said this on the matter:
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 International Criminal Court.
So, on those terms, could there be a case against the president?
You decide. Here are a few of his pronouncements about his war on drugs and criminality. To be clear, these are all on public record and entirely verifiable:
“If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.”
“If you want to kill the drug addict, just shoot him in the head!”
To an audience of Boy Scouts: “I am angry. I will kill people if they destroy our youth. I am really strict. And they say I kill people. I really kill people if they destroy our children. You drug addicts, since you’ve been identified, avoid the streets, stay in your homes because I will throw you in Manila Bay. I’ll make you fertiliser for the fish.”
“In Davao I used to do it personally. Just to show the guys that if I can do it, why can’t you? And I’d go around in Davao with a motorcycle, with a big bike around, and I would just patrol the streets, looking for trouble also. I was really looking for a confrontation so I could kill.”
“I killed about three of them. I don’t know how many bullets from my gun went inside their bodies.”
“If you lose your job, I’ll give you one. Kill all the drug addicts,” the President told returning overseas workers. “Help me kill addicts. Let’s kill addicts every day.”
“If they pull out a gun, kill them. If they don’t, kill them still, son of a whore, so it’s over, lest you lose the gun. I’ll take care of you.”
“There’s three million drug addicts. There are. I’d be happy to slaughter them.”
“When I said I’ll stop criminality, I’ll stop criminality. If I have to kill you, I’ll kill you. Personally.”
“If you are doing an illegal activity in my city, if you are a criminal or part of a syndicate that preys on the innocent people of the city, for as long as I am the mayor, you are a legitimate target of assassination.”
“Like what happened in San Juan. They were lucky I was not (there). If there was that big haul of shabu, I will really kill you. Let’s not resort to drama. I, myself, will shoot them if nobody would shoot them.”
“I will have you killed. I will win because of the breakdown of law and order. I do not want to commit a crime. But if by chance per chance God will place me there watch out because that 1,000 will become 100,000. If I win then beware. The fish in Manila Bay will get fat. I will throw you there.”
“Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination if you’re a son of a bitch. Most of those killed, to be frank, have done something. You won’t be killed if you don’t do anything wrong. If you are an upright journalist, nothing will happen to you. The example here is Pala. I do not want to diminish his memory but he was a rotten son of a bitch. He deserved it.”
“Get out of my city if you’re doing drugs or other crimes, because if you don’t, I’ll kill you.”
“Do not lie to me. You will get shot.”
It’s also worth mentioning that the ICC has one judge from the Philippines, a certain Raul Pangalangan – who just happens to be the publisher of The Inquirer newspaper.
Just last month, his publication came in for a tongue lashing from the president, who said: “See how they slant. I don’t know. But someday – I’m not scaring them – but someday, karma will come.
“Inquirer, you are bullshit, also ABS-CBN, you publish trash. Someone should tell you, ‘You are sons of bitches, you went too far in your nonsense’. They’re shameless, those sons of whore journalists.
“Look at Inquirer, I am saying, they are the ones who said I order the deaths of the poor. You know, yesterday, the Inquirer published two bullshit articles, those sons of bitches.”
While it’s highly unlikely that Judge Pangalangan would be assigned to a case involving any possible conflict of interest (and I’m not suggesting he’d be anything other than impartial if he were) – but it’s always interesting how often those who invoke karma on others find it comes back to bite them on their own arse.