‘Kill, kill, kill’: Duterte’s words offer evidence in ICC
MANILA, Philippines—Throughout his rants and display of anger toward the drug menace, one word finds itself being uttered again and again by President Rodrigo Duterte—kill.
In March 2016, while still campaigning for president and still mayor of Davao City, Duterte declared “kill them all” referring to his plans against criminals and drug syndicates.
In July 2016, his first month in Malacañang, Duterte told police he’ll protect them even if they killed 1,000 persons in the performance of their duty.
Since the start of his presidency, Duterte was not known to hold anything back when the issue is about drugs. On this, the President was highly consistent even amid criticisms.
He had asked law enforcers to “shoot-to-kill” and assured he would “protect and take care of them.” He doesn’t give a shit, he said, about what human rights groups have to say.
When Fatou Bensouda, former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), requested the pre-trial chamber to investigate the Philippine campaign against drugs, Duterte’s remarks found themselves being useful as evidence.
Bensouda said the words of Duterte and even other officials of the Philippines, “encouraging, supporting and, in certain instances, urging the public to kill suspected drug users and dealers” indicate a State policy to attack civilians.
Last Wednesday (Sept. 15), the ICC formally opened an official investigation into crimes against humanity that were allegedly committed in the Philippines, especially in the government’s war on drugs.
The ICC said there was “reasonable basis” to proceed with the investigation, explaining that “specific legal element of the crime against humanity of murder” appears to have been committed.
It said the potential case(s) arising from the investigation “appear to fall within the Court’s jurisdiction.”
“For these reasons, the chamber hereby authorizes the commencement of the investigation into the situation in the Philippines, in relation to crimes within the jurisdiction of the court allegedly committed on the territory of the Philippines between 1 November 2011 and 16 March 2019 in the context of the so-called ‘war on drugs’ campaign,” the ICC chamber said.
The Philippine government, however, reiterated that it will not cooperate with the ICC investigation, saying it has no jurisdiction over the Philippines since the country withdrew from the treaty that established the ICC—the Rome Statute.
“While we expect that more theatrics will be employed by the detractors of the President as election season draws near, this blatant and brazen interference and assault on our sovereignty as an independent country by the ICC is condemnable,” Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said.
The ICC previously explained that it still has authority to look into alleged crimes committed while the Philippines was still a part of the treaty.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte had no reaction when he was informed of the decision, saying that ever since, the President asserted that he will rather die first than face foreign judges.
However, Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, said “no one should be invincible and infallible.” “There is always a time for everything,” he said.
Agnes Callamard, secretary general of Amnesty International and former special rapporteur of the United Nations, said the ICC decision was welcome as the Philippines is still “beset by a pervasive culture of impunity” and it gives victims and their relatives a chance to hold those responsible to account.
In the last five years, the President was consistent in his crackdown while reiterating that State forces should not worry because he will defend them.
In his State of the Nation Address last July, Duterte declared all-out support for the police and military, asking Congress to pass a law providing them with free legal assistance.
This, he said, was to help police and military in cases arising from “incidents related to the performance of official duty.”
Last June, Bensouda said a remark from the President stood out—when he was still seeking the land’s highest post, he said 100,000 individuals will die in his crackdown against illegal drugs and that bodies will float on Manila Bay.
Lawyer Kristina Conti said in an interview with ANC that the President’s statement was on record.
She said while Roque and Panelo dismissed Duterte’s remarks as something he did not mean, if taken altogether, “he really emboldened, instigated these killings, at the least, he set up the environment, conducive environment for killings and impunity.”
Rights group Karapatan, one of the groups firmly fighting for victims of killings in the Philippines, said the ICC “sees as apparent” that State policy was being enforced in the killings.
From 2016 to 2021, here are some of Duterte’s statements and remarks which could end up as evidence in the ICC.
‘Kill them all’
In March 2016, in Pangasinan, when he was still campaigning for president, Duterte said, “kill them all” referring to his plan on drugs and criminality. He told the crowd he would pack funeral homes with corpses.
“When I become president, I’ll order the police and the military to find these people and kill them.”
‘Do your duty’
In July 2016, the President said he will protect his men even if they kill a thousand people in the line of duty.
He was speaking before officials as Director General Roland de la Rosa, now a senator, formally took command of the PNP.
“Do your duty, and if in the process you kill one thousand persons because you were doing your duty, I will protect you. And if they try to impeach me, I will hurry the process and we will go out of the service together,” Duterte said in Quezon City.
He said he would be ready to die for policemen and protect them: “Do not bullshit me, do your duty, I will die for you.”
Duterte explained the drug problem needs to be addressed as it is a “clear and present danger” in the Philippines, saying it was a national security concern.
After naming government officials allegedly linked to illegal drugs, the President promised to keep his “shoot-to-kill” order until the last day of his term.
“My order is to shoot to kill [the 27 narco-politicians.] I don’t mind about human rights. Believe me,” he said.
He said he didn’t care what critics have to say. “This war against drugs, we have a crisis. I will not hesitate to kill you,” he said.
‘I will protect you’
In September 2016, Duterte was speaking before the police and military in Isabela when he promised to “protect” them.
“I will protect you. I will not allow one policeman or one military to go to jail,” he said.
Saying he was ready to go to prison in place of law enforcers, he said, “Tell them you are taking orders from Mayor Duterte. Jail him. I am willing to go to jail.”
The President told police and soldiers he will take care of them if they followed what the Constitution said.
He said the drug menace would run out of control if drug lords and their government protectors were not stopped.
He also compared himself to Adolf Hitler, saying he would be happy to “slaughter three million drug addicts.” He would later apologize to Jews.
‘I will have to defend them’
In December 2016, Duterte stood in defense of police officers who killed Rolando Espinosa, mayor of Albuera, Leyte who was on the President’s list of officials allegedly engaged in illegal drugs.
The police officers said it was a shootout, but the National Bureau of Investigation said it was a “rubout.”
Despite this, Duterte said in Manila, “I will have to defend them.”
“I will listen to the story and I will take it as the true version because they are under me, I should believe them,” he said.
The killing was investigated by the Senate. Senators said they doubt the account of the police because of inconsistencies.
In July 2017, as the Bureau of Management and Penology (BJMP) celebrated its anniversary, the President reiterated that he will protect the police and military.
“I said, I have no say on that. You file what you want to file. But I said this in front of Cabinet: ‘I will never allow a military man, a government man or a policeman to go to jail for doing his duty and obeying my order,’” he said.
He said government offices could investigate and file charges but this would not prevent him from pardoning convicted state forces, even those who committed murder.
“I will not allow [them to go to jail]. File the case you want to file,” he said, emphasizing that he would even coach them on what to say to evade accountability.
In August 2017, after Kian Lloyd de los Santos, the 17-year-old boy who was killed by police, was laid to rest, Duterte told Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido that police were allowed to kill “idiots” who violently resist arrest.
“Your duty requires you to overcome the resistance of the person you are arresting…(if) he resists, and it is a violent one you are free to kill the idiots, that is my order to you,” he said.
However, he said “murder and homicide and unlawful killings” were not allowed because they should uphold the rule of law in carrying out his orders.
‘Got your back’
In January 2018, the President said in Davao City that he will back policemen even if they kill crime suspects in the performance of their duties.
“That’s our deal. When I said that you go and destroy the drug industry, destroying means destroying, including human life,” he said.
Duterte emphasized he would take care of the problems encountered by the police, saying they should not worry as “I will take care of you.”
“Once you have [a] problem in the fulfillment of duty or [if it is] duty-connected, you have no problem at all,” he said.
‘Do not bother’
In March 2018, as the ICC said it was beginning a preliminary inquiry into the war on drugs, Duterte told them, “Don’t f*ck with me.”
“Who are you to interfere in the way I would run my country? You know very well that we are being swallowed by drugs,” he said in Davao City.
He told the police and military not to cooperate in any investigation on the war on drugs, saying their remarks could be twisted.
“Once those human rights investigators or rapporteurs come, my order to you is: Do not answer. Do not bother,” he said.
‘Free to kill’
In 2019, the President told the controversial Espenido that he should carry out the government’s war on illegal drugs.
Alleged to be involved in operations that left two local officials dead, Duterte said Espenido should “start killing” in his new assignment – Bacolod City.
“Bacolod is badly hit [by drugs] now. I placed Espenido there. I said, ‘Go there and you are free to kill everybody. Son of a b*tch, start killing there. The two of us will then go to jail’,” he said.
In April 2020, half a month after a strict lockdown was imposed in Luzon to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Duterte told state forces to “shoot dead” those causing trouble.
“My orders are to the police and military, also village officials, that if there is trouble or the situation arises that people fight and your lives are on the line, shoot them dead,” he said.
He said he would send troublemakers to the grave instead of allowing them to disobey orders.
In December 2020, Duterte told police to shoot first because “you might be shot.”
“All addicts have guns. If there’s even a hint of wrongdoing, any overt act, even if you don’t see a gun, just go ahead and shoot him,” he said.
“Shoot him first, because he will really draw his gun on you, and you will die,” the President said in Cavite.
He told them that as president, he has to protect every individual from the dangers of illegal drugs.
“The game is killing. I say to the human rights, I don’t give a sh*t with you. My order is still the same. Because I am angry,” he said.
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