In this file photo, lawyer Jude Sabio shows the stamped complaint he filed before the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands on April 24, 2017.
Office of Sen. Trillanes handout, file
ICC communication 'purely politics', former Duterte accuser Sabio says
(Philstar.com) - January 17, 2020 - 11:43am

MANILA, Philippines — Lawyer Jude Sabio, who brought accusations of mass murder against President Rodrigo Duterte before the International Criminal Court in 2017, said Friday that the communication he had filed in 2017 was “purely part of politics.”

Sabio on Tuesday signed an affidavit saying he intends to withdraw the communication he had filed in April 2017, where he alleged a “continuing mass murder” in the Philippines.

In an interview on ABS-CBN News Channel Friday, the lawyer denied he was paid to withdraw the ICC communication against Duterte.

“The situation situated in my communication cannot proceed to investigation. Why? Because it is not in the interest of justice,” Sabio said.

He said the document was “nothing else but political propaganda” of Sen. Leila de Lima, former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and the Liberal Party-led opposition.

“Events have shown, especially in the 'Bikoy' scandal that… [they] are motivated else but political propaganda. In other words, they are not interested in justice,” Sabio said, referring to a series of anonymous videos accusing Duterte, his family, and his allies of having links to the illegal drug trade.

The government claims the videos were part of a conspiracy to discredit Duterte and has filed sedition complaints against Vice President Leni Robredo, Trillanes and other personalities identified with the political opposition.

Communication’s veracity

Sabio said Trillanes had asked him to file the ICC communication, which relied heavily on the accounts of witnesses Arturo Lascañas at Edgar Matobato. Both accused Duterte of leading the Davao Death Squad when he was still a mayor of Davao City.

Asked on whether or not the allegations in the ICC communication were true or not, Sabio responded: “I’m going back to what I said: the issue here is interest of justice.”

He later said that he “cannot say what is true in regards to the testimony” of Lascañas and Matobato.

“I’m not saying Matobato and Lascañas lied. I’m just saying that the case is not in the interest of justice.”

Last straw

For Sabio, the “Bikoy” controversy was the “last straw.”

He claimed Trillanes recruited him to be a lawyer of Peter Joemel Advincula—the man who said he was the "Bikoy" in the “Ang Totoong Narcolist” videos—even after he failed the former lawmaker’s vetting.

“Isn’t that deception? Isn’t that dishonesty? Using me in that shenanigan when before he directed me to go to ICC. I cannot accept that,” Sabio said.

Trillanes on Tuesday dismissed Sabio’s withdrawal, saying the latter merely acted as the lawyer who facilitated the drafting of testimonies of witnesses Arturo Lascañas at Edgar Matobato.

Early in September 2019, Trillanes stressed he is not directly involved with Advincula, saying Sabio’s claim was only based on speculation.

"Assuming for the sake of discussion that your recollection of what happened was true, in your interview you said I told you Bikoy had 'other handlers' and they were looking for a lawyer. Does that not make clear that I'm not directly involved with him?" Trillanes said then.

Experts stressed that Sabio’s withdrawal of his communication will not have an effect on the preliminary examination being conducted by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. There are at least 52 communications filed against Duterte at the tribunal.

Bensouda said her office will finalize the preliminary examination in 2020. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

ANTONIO TRILLANES IV INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT JUDE SABIO
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