MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte won't file charges against Jude Sabio, the lawyer who had accused the Chief Executive of "mass murder" before the International Criminal Court (ICC) but who eventually withdrew his complaint, Malacañang said Thursday.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte does not file charges against people who accuse him of wrongdoing because he believes that the truth about the accusations would eventually come out.
"If you noticed, the president doesn’t mind all of this. He just lets people malign him. He does not file charges against them," Panelo said in a press briefing.
"Lies can be sustained only for some time. Once it haunts the peddler, then those lies melt in the heat of truth…Regardless of the lie you spread about the president, they will eventually be proven to be false. It only shows that this is a robust democracy in place," he added.
In 2017, Sabio filed a communication with the ICC linking Duterte and other officials to what he described as "continuing mass murder" in the Philippines. He had accused Duterte of crimes against humanity and had claimed that the president's crackdown on illegal drugs have resulted in the death of at least 7,000 people. Sabio had also accused Duterte of being the leader of the so-called Davao Death Squad, a group that he said is responsible for the death of 1,400 people.
But earlier, this week, Sabio withdrew his complaint and accused Duterte's critics of using it for propaganda. He also accused Duterte critics former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and Sen. Leila de Lima of not providing him enough financial support.
The ICC Office of the Prosecutor has said Sabio's actions would not affect its examination of the allegations against Duterte. The Commission on Human Rights has also downplayed Sabio's withdrawal, saying his communication is just one of the complaints being validated by the ICC.
But Panelo insisted that Duterte cannot be tried at the ICC because it has no jurisdiction over him.
"You cannot prevent them. But the fact remains is that it has no jurisdiction whatsoever over the president and for that matter this country," Panelo said.
"We have repeatedly said that the very source of its authority never gave birth. Why? Because we have to follow certain processes in giving teeth or enforceability to the particular law, it has to be published in a newspaper in general circulation or on the Official Gazette. And the Rome Statute was never published in either of the two mentioned processes," he added.
The Rome Statute is the international treaty that created the ICC. In 2018, Duterte withdrew the Philippines from the treaty as a response to the ICC's decision to probe his anti-narcotics campaign. The ICC, however, insisted that the Philippines still has the obligation to cooperate with an investigation despite the withdrawal.
Panelo said Sabio's withdrawal proves that ICC is receiving communications from "polluted" sources.
"It is indeed coming from those who want to vilify the administration and besmirch the reputation of the president," he added.
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