By Daniel Llanto i FilAm Star Correspondent
After President Duterte admitted that extra-judicial killings (EJK) may be the “only sin” of his administration, some legal experts are convinced that this statement can be used as evidence to corroborate the complaint filed against Duterte at the International Criminal Court or even underpin an impeachment case against him.
Former law Dean Antonio La Viña claimed that Duterte’s statement practically admitting that illegal executions attended his bloody war on drugs was indeed an “admission of guilt” and a culpable violation of the Constitution.
La Viña said Duterte’s EJK statement could be a basis for impeachment and can be used as evidence against him in the case filed at the ICC. Former Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares, agreed, adding that there is now an evidence that Duterte used to say none existed.
Duterte made his “only sin” remark at an earlier speaking engagement before the police and military officers whose ranks are said to be the object of recruitment by some disgruntled elements with destabilization in mind.
Lawyer Jude Sabio, who filed the ICC complaint against Duterte last year, said the President “just confirmed that he is a killer.”
Sabio said that while the government cannot investigate his involvement in the drug-related killings, the ICC however could prosecute him. “The ICC under the principle of complementarity or lack of overlapping jurisdiction can prosecute him,” he added.
La Viña for his part pointed out that Duterte’s statement can be taken literally and seriously in light of his previous statements on the topic of extra-judicial killings.
“And for sure, the admission is not a joke; he is actually flaunting his impunity. His words are to be taken literally. He means them. It is consistent with previous statements about the collateral damage of his war against illegal drugs,” La Viña said.
But presidential spokesman Harry Roque argued that Duterte’s statement can in no way be used as evidence in the ICC probe, saying that the president was only joking and just wanted to emphasize that he was not guilty of other crimes.
Roque also said this was because Duterte felt sad about the increase in drug-related deaths in the country. Moreover, he noted that ICC could not meddle with this country’s judicial system which is actively functioning. “Imperfect may be but functioning.”
Malacañang challenged the lawyers who think otherwise to file an impeachment complaint against Duterte. “Let them start, they cannot vote because they are not members of Congress and I’m sure it will also be dismissed by Congress not because it’s a political process but because it’s utterly bereft of merit,” Roque said.
Roque said the President’s remarks cannot be considered an admission of wrong doing because he did not directly mention that he killed someone. He added that there was no such crime as extra-judicial killing in the Philippines or in international law.
“I’d like to emphasize that there is actually no crime as EJK in both domestic and international law. In fact, this is a misleading term because killing in our constitution and in our laws is never legal so there is no such thing as extra-judicial killings. It’s either lawful killing or unlawful killing,” he explained.
Roque also noted that the EJK statement can in no way be used as evidence to back up the complaint against President Duterte in the ICC because the international tribunal has no pending investigation in the Philippines.
He argued that Duterte’s statement could not be used as evidence in the ICC probe, saying that the President was only joking and just wanted to emphasize that he was not guilty of other crimes.
Duterte announced in March 2018 the Philippines’ withdrawal from the Rome Statute that created the ICC, following ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s attempt at a preliminary investigation into the reported extra-judicial killings in the country.