MANILA - The lawyer of self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato on Monday expressed confidence that the International Criminal Court (ICC) will issue a warrant of arrest against President Rodrigo Duterte once the preliminary examination and investigation on his complaint is done.
"Confident ako na ang ICC, through the pre-trial chamber, will issue a warrant of arrest against President Duterte," Atty. Jude Sabio told ANC.
Sabio on Monday filed a 77-page complaint against Duterte and senior administration officials at the ICC, accusing them of crimes against humanity amid the country’s bloody crackdown on illegal drugs.
More than 7,000 have died in the fierce campaign, but the government has maintained that less than half were killed in legitimate police anti-drug operations.
The complaint is anchored on testimonies of confessed hitmen Matobato and retired policeman Arturo Lascañas, as well as reports of media organizations and human rights advocates.
The two assassins have tagged Duterte in masterminding slays of the Davao Death Squad, which was responsible for the execution of crime suspects in Davao City during his time as Mayor.
According to Sabio, Duterte "repeatedly, unchangingly and continuously" committed crimes against humanity, and that under him, killing drug suspects and other criminals has become "best practice".
"Sinimulan niya ang kanyang pagpatay sa libo-libong tao na suspected sa krimen noong siya ay death squad mayor ng Davao City at ipinagpatuloy niya noong naging presidente na siya, naging death squad president siya, noong naglunsad siya ng giyera laban sa droga sa Pilipinas na kumitil na nang sobra 7,000 katao," Sabio said.
He also refuted claims that Duterte's actions when he was Davao City Mayor cannot be punished by ICC as the Philippines was not yet a party to the Rome Statute at that time.
The Rome Statute, an international treaty which was adopted in 1998 and came into force in 2002, established the ICC.
"Lahat ng ginawang pagpatay ni Pangulong Duterte, kasama na yung naging mayor siya ng Davao, after August 2011 ay kasama dito sa kaso sa ICC dahil naging party ang Pilipinas sa Rome Statute noong August 2011. So lahat ng ginawang pagpatay ni Mayor Duterte kahit Mayor siya ng Davao basta pagkatapos ng August 2011 ay kasama," Sabio said.
"Kaya mali 'yung sinasabi ni Atty. (Harry) Roque na 'yung mga ginawang pagpatay sa Davao ay hindi kasama sa jurisdiction ng ICC kasi malinaw sa Rome Statute na 'yung mga criminal conduct after August 2011 ay kasali sa ICC," he added.
Sabio also said filing the complaint at the ICC was his last resort since the deaths would not likely be investigated as they were perpetrated by the President himself.
"In fact, nung naging mayor siya, hindi nga niya inimbestigahan ang mga patayan doon. The same is true now in the war on drugs, hindi niya iimbestigahan. Kaya wala tayong ibang recourse but to go to the ICC in order to achieve international criminal justice, kasi kung sa Pilipinas, walang mangyayari," he said.
Sabio hopes his complaint will lead to Duterte's impeachment.
"Siyempre, in my personal view, dapat siyang ma-impeach dahil matinding mas murder ang kanyang ginawa. Continuing, repeated and unchanging 'yung continuing commission of mass murder mula noong panahon na naging mayor siya ng Davao City at nung naging Presidente na siya sa kanyang giyera kontra droga," he said.