MANILA - The complaint filed against President Duterte before the International Criminal Court is aimed at embarrassing the Philippine leader just as he hosts his first international summit this month, Malacañang said Monday.
In a statement, Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella noted the timing of the complaint filed by the the lawyer of self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato.
Matobato earlier tagged the President in murders committed by the Davao Death Squad during his years as Davao City Mayor.
"The timing of the filing is suspect - apparently meant to create negative news in the midst of the Philippines ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) debut; as it cannot prosper," Abella said in a statement.
The Philippines is set to host nine Asean leaders in a summit later this week.
"The intent of this filing in ICC is clearly to embarrass and shame the President, and undermine the duly-constituted government of the Philippines. It is a cynical effort against the reform-oriented agenda of the Duterte administration and of the betterment of the lives of the Filipino people."
In his complaint, lawyer Jude Sabio asked the ICC to investigate Duterte and 11 other individuals for crimes against humanity over the government's controversial war on drugs.
More than 7,000 have died in Duterte's fierce anti-drug campaign, but the administration has maintained that less than half have been killed in legitimate police operations.
Abella said Sabio's decision to go to the ICC, known as a court of last resort, is misguided.
The ICC can only act on a case if it is found that the state has shown no willingness or inability to resolve a matter, he said.
Abella said Sabio and Matobato have yet to exhaust all remedies provided for under the country's Constitution and laws.
He also argued that the Philippines has not shown unwillingness to investigate Matobato's claims that Duterte ordered killings as long-time Davao City Mayor.
He cited a Senate investigation into the alleged extrajudicial kilings linked to Duterte's war on drugs, in which Matobato stood as a witness.
The Senate concluded that there is no proof that the killings were state-sponsored.
"As such, there is no unwillingness or inability on the part of the State to investigate and prosecute the president," Abella said.