Earlier this month, the International Criminal Court announced a preliminary investigation into President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war in the Philippines. Thousands of people have been killed by police and vigilantes and this week, a defiant Duterte vowed to continue the war as long as he’s in office. More from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.
“The war or the drive against drugs will not stop,” President Duterte declared, “and it will last until the day I step out. If I go to prison, I go to prison.”
At this point, it’s far from clear that there will be a formal investigation, much less a prosecution. Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor for the ICC told reporters in The Hague that she will open a preliminary inquiry to determine whether to proceed. As part of that process, the ICC would have to find that local courts are either unable or unwilling to investigate.
When President Obama, Pope Francis, the United Nations or Amnesty International raised questions about extrajudicial killings, President Duterte responded with a combination of drama and fury over neo-colonial interference.
Add the ICC to the list.
In one speech this week, Duterte imagined himself in front of a firing squad, like Philippine National hero Jose Rizal. “I can face the ICC,” he said. “If they want to indict me and convict me, fine….I would love to experience what Rizal experienced.”
At least 4,000 people have been killed by police since Duterte took office two years ago. That’s the official estimate. It does not include those killed by vigilantes, often shot execution style, with cardboard signs around their necks labelling them as drug dealers or drug users.
Human Rights Watch says that brings the number to twelve thousand, but that even the lower number more than justifies an independent investigation.