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VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte makes three false claims about the ICC

President Rodrigo Duterte made three false claims about the International Criminal Court (ICC) in a Papua New Guinea speech.


Speaking before the Filipino community a day ahead of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ meeting, Duterte said:

Narinig ninyo na idinemanda…ICC kasi imbestigahin daw ako (You heard [I’m being] sued… the ICC because they will investigate me).

Source: PCOO, President Rodrigo Duterte, Speech before the Filipino community in Papua New Guinea, Nov. 16, 2018, watch from 42:56-43:05

Mocking ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, the president said:

Tapos ‘yung putot na itim na (And that midget, black) prosecutor nila nandiyan sa (of theirs there in) Manila, sige pa-press con kay (always giving press conferences) she will start… Sabi ko ikaw putota ka bantay ‘pag nakita kita sampalin kita (You watch out midget because if I see you I’ll slap you).

Source: watch from 43:08-43:23

He also said:

“I do not recognize the ICC. It is a creation of EU.”

Source: watch from 43:45-43:33


Duterte got three things wrong.

First, there is no pending or ongoing ICC investigation just yet.

Bensouda said so herself when she announced Feb. 8 she will be examining the facts on alleged crimes committed by the Philippine government in its war on drugs:

“I emphasise that a preliminary examination is not an investigation.”

Source: ICC, Statement on opening Preliminary Examinations into the situations in the Philippines and in Venezuela, Feb. 8, 2018

A preliminary examination is a process to determine if there is reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation.

Second, Bensouda has not visited Manila contrary to Duterte’s claim.

While her office may undertake field missions during the preliminary examination stage, no legitimate news outfit or government agency has reported she or any member of the ICC has done so.

Last, the president repeated his false claim that the European Union created the ICC. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK; Duterte FALSELY CLAIMS the EU created the ICC)

The court is an independent institution established in 1998 by the Rome Statute, an international agreement party to which are 123 states; the Philippines signed the treaty on Dec. 28, 2000 and ratified it on Aug. 30, 2011.

The ICC investigates, prosecutes and tries individuals accused of committing genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression.


The Philippine government withdrew from the ICC in March, shortly after Bensouda announced her preliminary examination.

Then Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano called the withdrawal the country’s “principled stand against those who politicize and weaponize human rights.”

Duterte on several occasions claimed the court has no jurisdiction over the Philippines since the country’s ratification of the Rome Statute was not published in the Official Gazette or any newspaper of general circulation.


International Criminal Court, Policy Paper on Preliminary Examinations, November 2013

ICC, Statement of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Mrs. Fatou Bensouda, on opening Preliminary Examinations into the situations in the Philippines and in Venezuela, Feb. 8, 2018

ICC, Preliminary Examinations: The Philippines, Retrieved Nov. 21, 2018

United Nations, Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court: Philippines Withdrawal, March 19, 2018

(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.)

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