MANILA- Critics of President Rodrigo Duterte are only using the International Criminal Court to ruin his reputation, Malacañang said Wednesday after a lawyer withdrew his communication to the tribunal on the chief executive’s supposed "crimes against humanity."
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said it is high time that the ICC wakes up from its supposed ignorance as he claimed that lawyer Jude Sabio’s case against Duterte was only part of a "vilification campaign."
"The ICC has to wake up from its stupor if not ignorance. It should realize by now that it is being used by disgruntled and discredited persons to advance their goal of besmirching the reputation of [President Duterte] and achieving their impossible dream of brining down the Duterte presidency," Panelo said.
Sabio filed a communication with the ICC in April 2017, alleging that President Duterte and other Philippine government officials committed crimes against humanity in instituting extrajudicial killings first in Davao City through the Davao Death Squad, which they allegedly continued on a national scale through the war on drugs.
On Tuesday, however, Sabio announced that he was withdrawing the communication, saying he doesn’t want it used for political purposes.
Sabio’s announcement came months after his public falling-out with former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV over a billing dispute, claiming an unpaid billing of P700,000 for handling the cases of self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato.
"Slowly but surely, the destabilizers of the Duterte administration are being undressed," Panelo said.
Trillanes dismissed Sabio’s withdrawal of the communication and denied any professional relationship with the lawyer. The former lawmaker also described the funds he previously gave Sabio as "aid."
"Trillanes must be squirming in his disgraced retirement by Sabio’s turnabout. Lies can only be sustained for sometime. When conscience haunts and torments the peddler, it melts by the heat of truth," Panelo said.
Malacañang also insisted that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the Philippines even as the latter continues to accept complaints against Philippine government officials.
"It should recognize the unalterable legal fact that it has no jurisdiction over the President, and for that matter, the Philippines," Panelo said.
Panelo, also Duterte’s chief legal counsel, however has repeatedly argued that the country was never a party to the ICC as it did not complete all the steps to formalize its adoption.
He criticized the ICC for still accepting human rights complaints against President Duterte, arguing that it “only demonstrates its continuing ignorance of the very source of its being.”
The Philippines was officially out of the ICC in March 2019, a year after Manila announced its withdrawal from the world's only permanent war crimes tribunal.
Manila moved to quit after the body launched a preliminary examination in 2018 into President Duterte's drug crackdown.