Human rights observer calls comment, "A grotesque cruelty at best, and a damning indictment of his government’s murderous campaign at worst."
Filipino activists are calling for the prosecution of President Rodrigo Duterte, after an off-the-cuff comment in which he appeared to take responsibility for the thousands of deaths related to the Philippines’ War on Drugs.
While speaking at the Presidential Palace, Duterte commented: “What are my sins? Did I steal money? Even just one peso? Did I prosecute somebody I sent to jail? My only sin is extrajudicial killings.”
Duterte currently faces two indictments for crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court (ICC). Charges were filed in August when families of eight victims of the war on drugs came forward to call for criminal prosecution of Duterte.
Opposition Senator Rizza Hontiveros called Duterte’s comment a “verbal admission [which] will serve as solid evidence in the people’s quest for justice,” She added, “It will serve to contribute in moving forward national and international efforts to exact accountability from the president and his cohort.”
Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque attempted to shrug off the comment on local radio station DZRH. He said, “You know the president. He wasn’t serious. That’s the president [was] being himself, being playful, highlighting the point that he isn’t corrupt.”
Human rights advocates hope that Duterte’s will be used as evidence in the upcoming ICC probe into his role in these deaths, which Senator Antonio Trillanes reported had reached 20,000, in February.
Minar Pimple, a senior director at Amnesty International, suggested Duterte’s comments pointed out the need for international investigation. He said, “This ‘playful’ comment is a grotesque cruelty at best, and a damning indictment of his government’s murderous campaign at worst.”
Aljazeera reports, Duterte withdrew from the ICC’s founding treating in march on the grounds that:
It skirted due process and the presumption of his innocence, and sought to portray him as a “ruthless and heartless violator of human rights”.
Earlier this week Senator Antonio Trillanes was arrested on charges of rebellion outside the Senate building in the Philippine capital Manila. Trillanes has been critical of Duterte’s leadership since he took office and has been one of the most outspoken senators against the war on drugs. His arrest is being decried as persecution of the government’s opponents.