MANILA - Malacañang on Tuesday belittled the fresh communication filed against President Rodrigo Duterte before the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, the only Philippine lawyer allowed to practice at the ICC, said the communication “does not mean anything” since anyone can file one.
“Even the Pope has a communication filed against him. So that doesn’t mean anything,” Roque said in a Palace press briefing.
Roque added the communication also violates the principle of complementarity, which means that the international court should only act on a case if the courts in a particular member country are not functioning.
According to the complaint lodged by a rights group and families of several drug war fatalities, Duterte committed murder over "the extrajudicial killings of thousands of Filipinos" and inhumane acts for "causing great suffering to the victims and their families."
The alleged mass murders and rights violations under Duterte "are so grievous and so heinous that is of sufficient gravity to justify further action of the Court," according to the complainants, represented by the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers.
At least 4,814 deaths have been recorded in police anti-drug operations in the past 2 years, the police said. Rights groups claim this number is understated and say at least 12,000 have died.
The Hague-based ICC earlier this year launched a preliminary examination into the first complaint against Duterte for allegedly using killings to control crime, a tactic he also supposedly used during his 22 years as mayor of Davao City.
This prompted Duterte in May to withdraw the Philippines from the Rome Statute, which created the ICC.
The Philippines remains a party to the statute as the withdrawal will only take effect a year after it was filed, said the complainants.
The ICC, a course of last resort, may take jurisdiction over Duterte because the Philippine justice system is "unable to prosecute him" as presidents are expressly immune from suit, the complaint argued.
Tuesday's ICC complaint was lodged by relatives of 7 drug war fatalities and the group Rise Up for Life and for Rights.
The first complaint against Duterte was filed by lawyer Jude Sabio, counsel for Edgar Matobato, a retired Davao policeman who accused the President of ordering assassinations when he was still mayor.
Magdalo party-mates Rep. Gary Alejano and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV filed a supplemental complaint to Sabio's case.