Duterte 'digging his own grave' with ICC withdrawal, says lawyer


Posted at Mar 15 2018 12:09 PM | Updated as of Mar 15 2018 12:36 PM

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MANILA - The lawyer behind the charges against President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday that the Philippines' move to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) is a futile attempt by the Chief Executive to evade liability.

Speaking to ANC, lawyer Jude Sabio said withdrawal of a state party does not stop the ICC, which has opened a preliminary examination on the the charges against Duterte, from exercising jurisdiction on any legal matter brought before it.

"This sudden turnaround is an ingenious ploy to evade liability to prevent ICC from exercising its jurisdiction. It's a futile attempt. Withdrawal won't stop ICC from exercising jurisdiction," he said, noting that Duterte once said he welcomes ICC's possible probe.

The ICC's move to conduct a preliminary examination on the charges against Duterte and some senior government officials stems from the communication filed by Filipino lawyer Jude Sabio in April 2017, accusing them of committing crimes against humanity due to its war on drugs.

Sabio, representing confessed hitman Edgar Matobato, accused Duterte of crimes against humanity in relation to his drug war before the ICC. Duterte announced the Philippines' withdrawal from the court when the preliminary examination on the charges began.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the ICC, under its complementarity principle, can only exercise jurisdiction when domestic courts are unwilling or unable to do their work, which he said is not the case in the Philippines.

But Sabio said the administration has displayed several times that the government will never investigate President Duterte's bloody war against drugs, the reason why there is a need to bring his complaint to the ICC.
"What the President is doing right now is very counter-productive to him. It is a defense strategy that will boomerang against him. It will send a signal that no investigation that will happen in the Philippines, either by this government or by the United Nations. To me President Duterte is only digging his own grave in the ICC," he said.