MANILA - An impeachment case against President Rodrigo Duterte may be doomed to fail in a Congress dominated by his allies, but it may provide the building block towards seeking the International Criminal Court's (ICC) intervention, a law expert said.
International law expert Tony La Viña said the ICC rules provide that the court will only exercise jurisdiction over a crime, once national remedies have been exhausted.
Since the president is immune from suits in the Philippines, cases against him may only be acted upon through an impeachment proceeding.
Once it fails, La Viña said, the time will then be ripe to file a case against Duterte before the ICC.
“Maybe you have to try impeachment first. Even if there's no chance for it to succeed, then you can say to the ICC, ‘We tried going after the president with the only recourse we have,’” he said.
Created in 1998 through the United Nations treaty called the Rome Statute, the ICC has jurisdiction over 124 of its members, including the Philippines, which became a signatory 16 years ago.
‘FILE AT THE RIGHT TIME’
The lawyer of self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato has confirmed that he is set to charge Duterte with crimes against humanity before the ICC by end of March or early April.
Matobato’s lawyer, Jude Sabio, said Matobato and former policeman Arturo Lascañas will testify to pin the president down on the killings supposedly carried out by the Davao Death Squad as part of then-Mayor Duterte's strategy to control crime in the city. The death squad was also allegedly used to go after Duterte’s political enemies.
Sabio said the Davao killings would prove the pattern for what is happening in the country today amid the government’s bloody war on drugs, which has so far claimed around 8,000 lives.
La Viña believes, the case has a good chance of prospering should it be filed before the ICC at the right time.
He said no less than the president made pronouncements which encourage the killing of drug suspects.
This, despite the government's denial that it sanctioned the killing of drug suspects outside police operations.
“You link the words and the numbers. It doesn't take rocket science to connect the two. Words matter. If the president was less careless about the way he says things, there won't be any problem,” La Viña said.
La Viña, however, warned of the economic repercussions should the filing of a case against the president before the ICC pushes through.
“We will be perceived as a failed state. We'll be treated like North Korea, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan. Which is very sad, because we are definitely not like those countries,” he said.
An ICC prosecutor in October said the tribunal might have jurisdiction to prosecute those accused of the killings.
Duterte has little love for the ICC and has described it as "useless".
Asked on Monday about the prospect of going to jail, Duterte stood by what he said were clear instructions to police to kill if their lives were in danger, and reiterated that he took full responsibility for the crackdown.
"I will do what I say in public and I am ready to face the consequences," he told a news conference. "If I go to prison, so be it." – with Reuters