Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has lashed out anew at the International Criminal Court (ICC), which recently ordered a probe into his deadly war on drugs in the country, but said he is assuming responsibility for the deaths of alleged drug traffickers and several mayors during his term.
Duterte made the statements during a visit to the western province of Palawan on Thursday, during which he also told The Hague court to “just drop dead” as he would not submit himself to the jurisdiction of the international tribunal.
“What’s their problem? Why did they come here? Until hell freezes and turns into ice, I will not allow this nonsense to happen,” the president said in a mix of Tagalog and English.
His administration has said previously that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the Philippines since Duterte withdrew the country as a signatory to the Rome Statute that created The Hague court.
In September, the ICC said there was “reasonable basis” to proceed with the probe, noting that a “specific legal element of the crime against humanity of murder” had been met in the crackdown that left thousands dead.
The Philippines ratified the Rome Statute in 2011. Duterte withdrew the Philippines’s membership from the ICC in March 2018, and it came into force a year later in 2019. The ICC, however, is allowed to investigate cases during the period of Manila’s ICC membership.
On Thursday, Duterte said that he is willing to be judged by a Philippine court and be sent to a Philippine prison.
‘Those were mine’
During the same trip, the president also defended his war on drugs saying he takes “full responsibility” for his orders to the police and the country’s anti-drug agency.
“If there’s anybody who should go to the prison, it should not be the police nor the PDEA. It should be me, because they were acting upon my orders,” he said.
“I told them to go out and destroy the apparatus of the drug syndicates,” he added, repeating similar public pronouncements before and after the ICC’s decision to investigate.
Duterte said that he also has “no problem” that his administration has shortcomings.
“That’s admitted, either intentionally or unintentionally. But with the drugs, that was not intentional.
“However, the druglords who were raided and then killed by police, as well as those mayors — those were mine. All raids that killed mayors, those were all mine.”
Since becoming president in June 2016, at least 25 mayors and vice mayors were killed, including the sensational 2017 killing of Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog, his wife and several relatives and aides.
Another mayor, Antonio Halili, was killed by a sniper during his city’s regular flag ceremony, while another was shot dead while under detention.
The mayors were accused of having links to the illegal drug trade, but their families have denied the allegations.
Duterte ran for president in 2016 on a promise to end the country’s drug problem in six months. During his campaign and later on as president, he repeatedly urged police to “kill” drug suspects.
The latest government data released in June shows that as of the end of April 2021, police and other security forces have killed at least 6,117 suspected drug dealers. But government figures cited by the UN in June 2020 showed at least 8,600 deaths already.
A Philippine police report in 2017 also referred to 16,355 “homicide cases under investigations” as accomplishments in the government’s war against drugs.
In December 2016, Al Jazeera reported more than 6,000 deaths in the drug war, raising questions about the inconsistency of the government’s record-keeping system and the possible “manipulation” of government data.
Human rights groups say the number of deaths could be between 27,000 and 30,000. They accuse the authorities of carrying out summary executions that killed innocent people, including children.
Duterte’s son and son-in-law have also been accused of having drug links, but the president has dismissed those allegations, and no charges were filed against the two.
Duterte’s term ends on June 30, 2022.