MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said he takes "full responsibility" for his anti-narcotics crackdown that unleashed thousands of killings, which is now under the scrutiny of the International Criminal Court.
Duterte said his ally Sen. Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa, who was head of the national police when the drug war started in 2016, has grown "anxious" of the ICC probe.
"Si Bato nanerbyos kasi kasali siya doon sa Tokhang niya. Sabi ko, wag ka mag-alala, if there is any person who is going to prison, it would be me," Duterte said in a speech.
(Bato is nervous because he is part covered by that because of his Tokhang. I told him do not worry, if there is any person who is going to prison, it would be me.)
"But it should be a Filipino court manned by a Filipino judge and me prosecuted by a Filipino prosecutor. Magpakulong ako dito sa—marami naman penal colony, doon na lang ako," he continued.
(I am willing to go to prison, there are many penal colonies anyway, I will just stay there.)
The Duterte administration has argued the ICC has no jurisdiction over the Philippines because the President in 2018 withdrew the country from the treaty that created the tribunal.
The ICC says it retains jurisdiction over the Philippines from July 2016, when President Rodrigo Duterte took office, until March, 2019, when the country’s departure from the Rome Statute took effect.
Duterte said the ICC fails to see the law enforcers and ordinary Filipinos killed by drug traffickers.
"I will repeat what I have said before, if you destroy my country and if you destroy the young people by feeding them with drugs, you destroy the future. Kapag sinira mo ang bayan kong ganoon… talagang patayin kita," said the President.
"Do not ever think na palusutin kita. Yan ang sinasabi ko sa ICC. Wala akong tinatago, ano ang sinasabi ko. And I said I will protect,” he added.
(If you destroy my country, I will really kill you. Do not ever think I will let you go. That is what I say to the ICC. I am not hiding anything, that is what I have been saying.)
Duterte was elected in 2016 on a campaign promise to get rid of the Philippines' drug problem, openly ordering police to kill drug suspects if officers' lives were in danger.
At least 6,181 people have died in more than 200,000 anti-drug operations conducted since July 2016, according to the latest official data released by the Philippine government.
ICC prosecutors in court papers estimate the figure to be between 12,000 to 30,000 dead.
— With reports from Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News; Agence France-Presse