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Lawyer: Possible ICC case vs Duterte can be grounds for impeachment

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte looks at a computer monitor as he arrives for the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police joint command conference at the Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines Monday, Feb. 27, 2017. AP/Aaron Favila

MANILA, Philippines — The case to be filed before the International Criminal Court (ICC) can be an added basis for a possible impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte, a lawyer said.

Jude Sabio, legal counsel of self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato, earlier confirmed that he is scheduled to file a case of crimes against humanity against the president for his supposed liability for the extrajudicial killings of drug offenders.

READ: Matobato lawyer to file criminal case vs Duterte in international court

In a telephone interview with philstar.com, Sabio said that the testimonies of Matobato and former SPO3 Arthur Lascañas would be enough to prove the existence of the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS).

"As testified by Matobato, more than a thousand nameless persons were killed in Davao like chickens and this is also confirmed by Matobato so basically that will be the main thrust of the complaint. It's now easy to prove the pattern because we now have the testimony of Edgar Matobato and the corroborative testimony of Lascañas," Sabio told philstar.com

An ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had earlier expressed concern over the fact that Philippine officials seem to condone alleged extrajudicial killings and seem to encourage the police and civilians to continue targeting drug suspects.

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Bensouda said that extrajudicial killings may fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC if they are committed as a part of a widespread attack against a civilian population pursuant to a government policy.

"Let me be clear: any person in the Philippines who incites or engages in acts of mass violence including by ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing, in any other manner, to the commission of crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC is potentially liable to prosecution before the Court," Bensouda said in a statement released on Oct. 13, 2016.

If the Office of the Ombudsman finds probable cause in the complaint filed by Matobato against Duterte, this will be referred to Congress for a possible impeachment, Sabio said.

"Under the Ombudsman Law, a president, a person who is impeachable may still be investigated and in case of the president and other impeachable officials the finding of probable cause can be referred to the Congress for a possible impeachment," Sabio said.

Sabio, however, added that it would be up to the lawmakers if they would initiate an impeachment complaint against the chief executive.

The lawyer noted that Duterte is not immune from suit under the Rome Statute, which the country is a signatory of.

"In the International Criminal Court, he can be investigated, he can be tried and he can be imprisoned. A warrant of arrest can be issued against him and he's like any other ordinary person who can be arrested," the lawyer said.

The ICC prosecutor can open up a formal investigation into the alleged involvement of Duterte with the so-called DDS upon submission of Matobato and Lascañas' testimonies.

Bensouda said that her office will be closely following the developments in the Philippines to record any instance of incitement or resort to violence to assess whether a preliminary examination needs to be opened in the country.

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