MANILA — There is no clear evidence linking former President Rodrigo Duterte to extrajudicial killings allegedly committed during his administration's campaign against illegal drugs, a lawmaker said Friday.
Surigao del Sur 2nd District Rep. Johnny Pimentel made this remark following the International Criminal Court's decision to reopen an inquiry into the bloody crackdown, which left thousands dead.
Pimentel and 18 other lawmakers, including former President and Senior Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, have filed a resolution calling on the House of Representatives to come to the "unequivocal defense" of Duterte.
"There is no evidence, a very clear evidence linking extrajudicial killings to former president Duterte," Pimentel told ANC's "Rundown".
"Can any person in Philippine soil point to President Duterte na siya ang pumatay nitong tao na'to?"
During his 6-year term, Duterte openly ordered police to shoot dead drug suspects if their lives were in danger.
More than 6,200 people died in his anti-drug campaign, according to official figures. But rights groups estimate the true figure was in the tens of thousands.
Majority of the co-authors of the resolution defending Duterte are from PDP-Laban, Pimentel said.
"It is incumbent, it is our obligation to come to the defense to our chairman emeritus," he added.
The resolution claims that the anti-drug operations helped the country's peace and order. It also argued that the Philippines has a functioning and independent judicial system.
"It's a show of our support and it implies that this administration should also defend our former President because this will set a bad example," Pimentel said.
"If a crime is committed in Philippine soil, I believe the proper court to investigate and prosecute any perpetrator should be the Philippine courts."
The ICC, in a statement, said its pre-trial chamber "is not satisfied that the Philippines is undertaking relevant investigations that would warrant a deferral of the court's investigations".
"The various domestic initiatives and proceedings, assessed collectively, do not amount to tangible, concrete and progressive investigative steps," it added.
Since the start of the drug war in 2016, only 3 policemen have been convicted for killing a drug suspect.
— With a report from Agence France-Presse