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VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte’s claim on PH non-membership in ICC lacks context

President Rodrigo Duterte says he should be charged and prosecuted in a Filipino court, not in the International Criminal Court, for the human rights violations related to his war on drugs because the Philippines is no longer a member of the ICC

Rodrigo Duterte 06/12/2022 Needs context

The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I ruled in September 2021 that all crimes related to the drug war that occurred during the Philippines’ membership from Nov. 1, 2011 to March 16, 2019 still fall under its jurisdiction.

The claim of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte that the country is no longer a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) needs context.

STATEMENT

During a visit to the depot of the ongoing Metro Manila Subway Project in Valenzuela City on June 12, Duterte said he wants to “unburden” himself of hate for illegal drugs now that his six-year term ends this month.

Assuring the police and military involved in the deaths resulting from illegal drug operations, Duterte said he would assume “full accountability” for all acts performed in the line of duty:

“Kayong mga human rights, huwag ninyong isali ‘yang mga pulis. Nagtutupad lang ‘yan sa utos ko. Ako ang ihuli ninyo (To the human rights (groups), do not involve the police. They are just following my orders. Arrest me instead).

 

And itong (this) ICC, International Criminal Court, hindi tayo (we are not a) member. I am a Filipino. If I will be charged criminally, it should be before a Filipino court. And if there’s somebody who will judge me, it will be a Filipino judge. And if somebody will prosecute me, it must be a Filipino prosecutor. The courts are there. There is no failure of justice.”

 

Source: Presidential Communications Operations Office official website, Lowering of the Tunnel Boring Machine and Inspection of the Subway Depot (transcript), June 12, 2022, watch from  17:18 to 18:09

 

FACT

The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I ruled in September 2021 that all crimes related to the drug war that occurred during the Philippines’ membership from Nov. 1, 2011, to March 16, 2019, still fall under its jurisdiction.

 

 

On Sept. 15, 2021, the ICC chamber released its decision permitting the prosecutor to launch a full-blown probe into alleged crimes against humanity such as extrajudicial killings, torture, and sexual violence that mainly happened in the implementation of Duterte’s drug war. Former prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (succeeded by Karim Khan in June 2021) requested an investigation into allegations that around 12,000 to 30,000 Filipinos died in the hands of the police, military and vigilantes under the anti-illegal drug war campaign from July 2016 to March 16, 2019.

With less than two weeks left in Malacañang, Duterte insists that he should be charged in a Philippine court and not before the Netherlands-based ICC. He has also continued to mistakenly accuse the ICC of being a “court of white” people.

(See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte contradicts self within two minutes on ICC drug war probe and VERA FILES FACT CHECK: For the nth time, Duterte falsely claims all ICC judges are ‘white’)

Under ICC rules, a sitting state official like Duterte has no immunity from criminal prosecution in the court. If Duterte is named a suspect, he must be brought to the court’s headquarters in The Hague for possible confirmation of charges and trial. He would also have the right to challenge the jurisdiction of the court or admissibility of the case. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: ICC can strip off Duterte’s immunity)

However, no summons or warrants of arrest have been issued against any suspect after Khan temporarily suspended all “investigation activities” due to a request by the Philippine government in November 2021 to defer to the local proceedings.

(See Lawyers’ groups ask ICC to dismiss Duterte govt’s ‘paper-thin’ claims on drug war ‘remedies’ and ICC prosecutor: Gov’t request to defer drug war probe must be backed with ‘substantial’ evidence)

In a June 16 email, Khan’s office said that it has been working to promptly conclude its assessment of the government’s deferral request, which needs to prove that domestic proceedings are being conducted genuinely. Although there is no deadline, the office said it would soon decide “on whether to apply to the Pre-Trial Chamber to re-authorize the investigation” following a careful review of relevant information.

Know more about the ICC in our fact sheets:

 

Editor’s note: This article was updated on July 21, 2022 to correct a typographical error.

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Sources

Presidential Communications Operations Office official website, Lowering of the Tunnel Boring Machine and Inspection of the Subway Depot (transcript), June 12, 2022

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

International Criminal Court official website, Information for victims from the Republic of the Philippines, Accessed June 16, 2022

International Criminal Court official website, Decision on the Prosecutor’s request for authorisation of an investigation pursuant to Article 15(3) of the Statute, Sept. 15, 2021

Presidential Communications Operations Office official website, Speech of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte during his attendance to the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) Cainta Campaign Rally, May 3, 2022

International Criminal Court official website, Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court,  Accessed June 16, 2022

International Criminal Court official website, ICC Prosecutor, Mr Karim AA Khan QC, notifies Pre-Trial Chamber I of a request from the Republic of the Philippines to defer his investigation under article 18(2) of the Rome Statute | International Criminal Court, Nov. 23, 2021

Email correspondence with the Office of the Prosecutor International Criminal Court, June 16, 2022

 

(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.)