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Duterte wants De Lima as ‘first witness’ before ICC

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Duterte wants De Lima as âfirst witnessâ before ICC
This composite photo shows President Rodrigo Duterte and Sen. Leila De Lima.
Combination photo, file

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte wants detained opposition Sen. Leila de Lima to be his “first witness” if an International Criminal Court (ICC) trial on the killings tied to his drug war commences.

Speaking during a meeting of a regional anti-insurgency task force in Palawan yesterday, Duterte insisted that the ICC has no jurisdiction over him because the Rome Statute, which created the tribunal, was not published in the government’s official publication.

“If you insist on prosecuting me before the ICC, to the locals, listen for your education: nothing will happen. You cannot bring me within the jurisdiction of your ICC because here in the Philippines, you have deprived me of my constitutional right that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty and property without due process of law,” Duterte said.

“What is the due process? The publication. Ngayon, manigas kayo (drop dead),” he added.

While insisting that he won’t face “white judges,” Duterte said he is willing to go to the ICC “without necessarily submitting to its jurisdiction.”

“But I would love to go to where that Hague court is without necessarily submitting to its jurisdiction. I would like to give a speech there,” the President said.

“And worse comes to worse, if there is really a trial, then my first witness will be De Lima. She keeps on talking,” he added.

Duterte did not elaborate on the speech he wants to deliver before the ICC or why he wants De Lima to be his witness.

De Lima, a vocal critic of Duterte’s narcotics crackdown, is in jail on drug-related charges, including accepting money from convicted drug lords. The senator has denied involvement in the illegal drug trade and has accused the Duterte administration of “political persecution.”

Officials, however, maintained that the senator is in jail for violating drug laws, not because she is a member of the opposition.

An ICC pre-trial chamber has allowed a probe on Duterte’s drug war, saying there is “reasonable basis” to proceed with an investigation on the killings connected with his war on drugs.

According to the chamber, the crime against humanity of murder “appears to have been committed.”

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