Strong will should be the most precious gift of President Rodrigo Duterte to Filipinos as his determination goes beyond his term, which ends next year, and he made his political opponents take notice.
Regarding the trumped up complaint that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is pursuing, the President said he is not backing out from the challenge, and he even looks raring for a good fight as, being a prosecutor, he knows it will not prosper.
Mr. Duterte in the recent “Talk to the People” episode acknowledged the need to prepare for the bigoted probe that is mostly based on evidence supplied by his incessant critics, such as the manufactured 20,000 extrajudicial deaths pinned on state forces.
Destabilizer Antonio Trillanes IV cobbled up police records to come with the figure that the ICC swallowed hook, line and sinker.
The only term he asked is a fair proceeding unlike the prejudiced affair similar to the Senate public hearings that last “until kingdom comes.”
In a past argument with United Nations special rapporteur Agnes Callamard, the President said he will accede to an investigation that she, instigated by international allies of the “Oust Duterte” movement, had long sought if he gets equal opportunity to present his side, preferably through a debate.
Later on, Callamard and her backers, particularly liberal democrats in the United States and Europe, would expand their demand to include the unconditional release of drug trafficking suspect Senator Leila de Lima to bare their partisan interest.
“I will prepare for my defense in the ICC,” Duterte said, which was entirely different from his previous view that he will not submit to the probe, since the country had ceased to be a member of the international tribunal.
Similar to his only condition given to Callamard, the President said his only demand is fairness. “Just stick to the facts because there are records of it. I am not threatening you — just don’t cheat me on the evidence.”
The President made his stand known regarding the ICC during his recounting of the circumstances that led to his decision to retire from politics.
A long drawn legal battle with the ICC also has a lot to do with his vow to assume charges to be leveled on police forces who have faithfully followed the law in the conduct of the war on drugs.
“As long as you obey the law, it’s on me, not on you,” President Duterte said. “I will answer for it, and if someone should go to prison, I will be the one to go to prison.”
Still, forcing an investigation will only prove allegations that the international court has an underlying agenda.
Presidential legal adviser Salvador Panelo said pursuing the probe will violate sovereignty as it would mean meddling in the domestic affairs of the country.
He explained the justice system is adequately dealing with any crimes committed during the anti-narcotics campaign.
“The country will not allow anyone from the ICC to come in and gather information and evidence here in the Philippines,” Panelo said. “They will be barred entry.”
Mr. Duterte should not expect much from the ICC.
Seeking a level playing field from an international probe would be futile with the election season on and the hubris of the usual foes.
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