The International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened a probe into President Duterte’s alleged human rights violations related to his war on drugs.
In a statement issued to Agence France-Presse (AFP), prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said: “After a careful, independent and impartial review… I have decided to open a preliminary examination into each situation.”
According to the AFP report, the examination would focus on alleged crimes dating back as far as July 2016, two months after Duterte won the presidency.
“It has been alleged that since 1 July 2016, thousands of persons have been killed for reasons related to their alleged involvement in illegal drug use or dealing,” Bensouda said.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque confirmed the probe during a news conference yesterday (Friday, February 9).
“The president has said that he also welcomes this preliminary examination because he is sick and tired of being accused of the commission of crimes against humanity,” he said.
Roque, however, clarified that there was an important difference between a “preliminary examination” and a “preliminary investigation.” The former, he said, was done to see if there were any basis to launch an investigation.
The ICC’s examination is a response to a complaint filed by a lawyer in April that raised drug war deaths allegedly linked to President Duterte and 11 other senior government officials.
The ICC is mandated to prosecute individuals from member countries for crimes agaisnt humanity, genocide and war crimes.
According to the Philippine National Police’s latest tally, about 4,000 people have died due to the narcotics crackdown. However, human rights groups put the figure at closer to 13,000.
Nonetheless, Roque maintained that the war on drugs was a legitimate use of police power. “As a sovereign state, the Philippines has the inherent responsibility to protect its current and future generations by effectively addressing threats of the safety and well-being of its citizens such as proliferation of illegal drugs,” he said.
Meanwhile, the president has said that if he were to be found guilty, he would prefer to be executed by firing squad, like Philippine national hero Jose Rizal.