By Beting Laygo Dolor, Contributing Editor
President Rodrigo Duterte and former senator Antonio Trillanes IV resumed their long running, off and on word war, after the latter said the former was “trembling in fear” of being arrested by the International Criminal Court (ICC) which released last week its initial findings on the country’s war on drugs.
In its initial report, the ICC said there was “reasonable basis” to believe that crimes against humanity had been committed by the Duterte administration, accused of killing thousands of suspected drug users and pushers.
During his weekly address to the nation, Duterte belittled Trillanes as never having sent anyone to jail.
The President also told the former military officer that he was not afraid of being imprisoned if it was his destiny.
This, after Trillanes said the President “cannot get away” from the ICC.
Trillanes said that while Duterte could try and ignore the jurisdiction of the ICC, “deep inside he knows he cannot get away from this one.”
Trillanes told local media that he along with another former military officer, Gary Alejano, had asked the ICC to intervene in the Duterte administration’s brutal war on drugs, which executed rather than arrested drug suspects.
Prior to the joint pleading by Trillanes and Alejano in June 2017, lawyer Jude Sabio had also filed a case before the ICC two months before.
Said Trillanes: “Together, these two communications formed the primary basis for the ICC’s initiation of its preliminary examination in February 2018.”
A separate pleading to the ICC was also filed by a group identified with leftist groups in the latter part of 2018, said Trillanes.
The Duterte administration cancelled the Philippines’ membership in the ICC and says the court has no jurisdiction over the President or his administration.
However, the alleged crimes alluded to the President were committed when the Philippines was still a member of the judicial body, which led to legal opinions stating that Duterte is, in fact, covered by whatever final ruling is issued by the ICC.
The office of ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is expected to come out with a final report in the first half of 2021. It may decide to seek a formal investigation into the thousands of extra-judicial killings committed in the country since Duterte assumed the presidency in 2016.
The Duterte administration previously declared an earlier ICC prosecutor persona non grata but did not do the same to Bensouda, who was able to conduct an investigation during the government’s lockdown as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The ICC prosecutor’s preliminary report said murder, torture, rape, and other crimes against humanity were committed by the Duterte administration during its first three years, all in the name of the war on drugs.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the Philippines would not recognize any investigation conducted by the ICC, or its conclusions.
The President, however, said that he was willing to die for his principles.
Duterte’s administration tried multiple times to have Trillanes arrested, to no avail. His administration even tried to cancel the absolute pardon granted to the retired Navy officer by former President Benigno Aquino III for his role in the Oakwood mutiny against then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.