Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte remained confident that the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) proceedings against him will not prosper beyond the preliminary examination due to lack of jurisdiction.
In a speech on Wednesday, March 7, Duterte insisted that he could not be tried over the controversies hounding his anti-illegal drugs campaign, saying that the ICC will “never, never, never” have power over him.
“They want me haled before the ICC,” Duterte said. “I do not want to say this now, but they will never, never, never acquire jurisdiction over my person.”
Last month, the ICC began its preliminary examination into his administration’s campaign against illegal drugs that reportedly resulted in thousands of deaths of suspected drug personalities.
The preliminary examination aims to determine if there is a basis to conduct a formal investigation against Duterte, based on criteria established by the Rome Statute.
The ICC’s move stemmed from the communication filed by Filipino lawyer Jude Sabio in April last year. Sabio accused Duterte of committing crimes against humanity when the latter launched his bloody drug war.
The ICC is the “court of last resort” that has jurisdiction over genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
Malacañang, however, insisted that the drug war could not be considered as a crime against humanity because its “legitimate purpose” is to curb the proliferation of illegal drugs.
“Nothing has changed. The president’s stance remains the same — that because the Philippine courts are able and willing, the International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction,” Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque said.
“And secondly, in terms of merit, the war against drugs cannot be considered as crimes against humanity because it does not target just civilian population, but it is also an official exercise of the police powers of the state and has a legitimate purpose – to curb the proliferation of illegal drugs,” he added.
Roque further stressed that the Philippine government has not shown an unwillingness to prosecute erring officials.
“Philippine courts are still open to trying the case,” he said. “So there‘s no inability or unwillingness. Presidents have no immunity from prosecution for life.”