VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte contradicts self within two minutes on ICC drug war probe

In his Talk to the People appearance on Oct. 4, President Rodrigo Duterte said he "will prepare for (his) defense" in the impending investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on human rights abuses associated with his campaign against illegal drugs.

Two minutes later, however, he turned back to his usual spiel, asserting that the ICC will "never acquire jurisdiction over (his) person.”

STATEMENT

In the course of explaining his decision to not pursue his earlier plan to seek the vice presidency in the May 2022 elections, Duterte said he is “bowing to the people” who do not want him to stay any longer in politics, citing the result of a recent survey showing 60% of Filipinos believing that his candidacy would violate the Constitution.

"Tanggap ko ang husga ng taong bayan. Simple lang. Ayaw nila ako maglaro pa ng pulitika. Gusto nila umuwi na ako sa Davao at maghintay ako sa maraming… Si-- dada ng dada diyan ng kaso, hintayin ko kayo. I will prepare for my defense na 'yung ICC na 'yan, pati 'yung ano. Huwag lang kayo magsinungaling ...”

(I accept the people’s verdict. It’s simple. They don’t want me to play in politics anymore. They want me to go home to Davao and wait for the … Those who keep talking about cases, I’ll wait for you. I will prepare for my defense in the ICC, and the others. Just don’t lie.)

Source: RTVMalacanang, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s Talk to the People 10/4/2021, Oct. 4, 2021, watch from 1:29:53 to 1:30:32 (transcript)

FACT

Barely two minutes later in the same address, Duterte reversed course, asserting that the ICC “will never acquire jurisdiction over my person.”

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Duterte recalled that he had promised to go to prison on behalf of police officers and public officials who, he claimed, are “scared” of what could happen to him. He said he would “protect” them “for as long as [they] obey the law” in the “prosecution of the drug war.” He then went on to say:

"Sino bang g*gong magpakulong ng ano? Iyong ICC, ang kaharap ko puro mga puti, mga — t*ng ina. Pilipino ako; hindi ako international body. May sarili kaming judicial system dito. Huwag kayong makialam. At saka sinabi ko, you never acquire jurisdiction over my person.”

(Which idiot wants to go to prison? In the ICC, I will face a court full of white people, son of a b*tch. I’m a Filipino; I am not an international body. We have our own judicial system here. Don’t meddle. As I’ve said, you never acquire jurisdiction over my person.)

Source: Source: RTVMalacanang, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s Talk to the People 10/4/2021, Oct. 4, 2021, watch from 1:32:10 to 1:32:44 (transcript)

The president’s oft-repeated claim that all 18 ICC judges are white is false. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte, Panelo spew three false claims about ICC)

Several Malacañang officials, such as Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque and Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, have been asserting that Duterte never gave marching orders to the police to just kill all suspected drug personalities and that the ICC can no longer compel the country to cooperate in court proceedings following its withdrawal in March 2019.

Asked why the Philippine government refused to participate in the investigation of the ICC to clear allegations of human rights abuses in the drug war, Roque said in a Sept. 16 briefing that it would be a “violation” of the country’s sovereignty and jurisdiction.

The claim that the ICC has no jurisdiction over Duterte or the Philippines when it was a state party has been flagged thrice as false by VERA Files Fact Check. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Can Duterte invoke territoriality on matters related to crimes specified in the Rome Statute?; VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte says PH was 'not ever' a member of the ICC. Is that so?; VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte, Panelo spew three false claims about ICC)

Duterte has maintained that he would rather appear before a Philippine court than face the ICC. He even taunted the ICC in February 2018 that he would prefer to face a firing squad than imprisonment if found guilty.

The death penalty law was repealed in June 2006. Efforts to reinstate it during the current administration have not progressed.

BACKSTORY

On Sept. 15, the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I approved the request of the court's prosecutor to investigate alleged crimes against humanity that occurred in Duterte’s anti-drug campaign from July 1, 2016 to March 16, 2019. The chamber said it believes that based on available evidence, the drug war cannot be seen as a legitimate law enforcement operation and the killings “neither as legitimate nor as mere excesses in an otherwise legitimate operation.” (See ICC authorizes full-blown probe into Duterte's drug war)

The investigation also expanded the scope of the investigation to include alleged extrajudicial killings in Duterte’s hometown Davao, where he served both as mayor and vice mayor, by the notorious Davao Death Squad and police officers, among others, as early as Nov. 1, 2011.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan has not announced any suspects who have been issued an arrest warrant or summons. Under the rules of the ICC, any sitting state official like Duterte has no immunity from criminal prosecution in the court. If Duterte is named as a suspect, he has to be brought to the court’s headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands for possible confirmation of charges and trial.

Under Article 19 of the Rome Statute, the accused person or the State that has jurisdiction over a case (i.e. it is investigating or prosecuting the case) may challenge the jurisdiction of the court or admissibility of the case.


Sources

RTVMalacanang, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s Talk to the People 10/4/2021, Oct. 4, 2021, (transcript)

Presidential Communications Operations Office, On PRRD’s latest announcement, Oct. 2, 2021

Social Weather Station, Second Quarter 2021 Social Weather Survey: 60% of adult Filipinos say it violates the intention of the Constitution if President Duterte runs as Vice-President in 2022; only 39% say he should run, Sept. 27, 2021

International Criminal Court, Judges, Accessed Oct 5, 2021

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Conference of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, Feb. 9, 2018

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Sept. 16, 2021 (transcript)

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Interview with Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque by Mike Navallo & Nikki de Guzman (ANC – Rundown), Sept. 20, 2021

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Secretary Salvador S. Panelo, Nov. 29, 2018

Daily Tribune, Brazen interference (column by Salvador Panelo), Sept. 16, 2021

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Talk to the people, Oct. 4, 2021

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Talk to the People, July 28, 2021

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Speech of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte during the Christmas tree lighting ceremony of the Office of the President, Dec. 3, 2018

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Conference of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte Feb. 9, 2018

Official Gazette, Republic Act No. 9346, June 24, 2006

International Criminal Court, Rome Statute, Accessed Oct. 5, 2021

International Criminal Court, The Philippines Situation, Accessed Oct. 5, 2021

International Criminal Court, Situation in the Philippines: ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I authorises the opening of an investigation, Sept. 15, 2021


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

Have you seen any dubious claims, photos, memes, or online posts that you want us to verify? Send us a message here or here.

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