MANILA, Philippines - President Duterte is “a man who must be stopped,” The New York Times said yesterday.
In a scathing editorial titled “Let The World Condemn Duterte,” The New York Times (NYT) said the International Criminal Court (ICC) should “promptly open a preliminary investigation” into the allegations of mass killings against Duterte and 11 of his officials.
Although the ICC might be reluctant to start the investigation because Duterte is popular among Filipinos, NYT stressed there was “more than enough evidence” against the Philippine leader.
Lawyer Jude Sabio on Monday filed a complaint before the ICC, alleging Duterte had ordered the killing of more than 9,400 people, “most of them poor young men, but also bystanders, children and political opponents.”
After he was elected president last May, Duterte “took the killing campaign nationwide, effectively declaring an open season for police and vigilantes on drug dealers and users,” the editorial said.
The US publication said Duterte had paid members of the Davao death squad to kill suspected criminals and political opponents when he was still mayor of Davao City.
“Mr. Sabio is not the first to accuse Mr. Duterte of mass killings – so have Human Rights Watch, in 2009; Amnesty International, this January; and some brave Filipino politicians. The ICC chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, declared last October that the court was ‘closely following’ developments in the Philippines,” the editorial said.
NYT also noted the confessions of the two former members of the supposed death squad, saying Duterte had provided them the hit list.
If these were not enough evidence, NYT said the ICC could take into account Duterte’s remarks that he would be “happy to slaughter” three million drug addicts, like “Hitler had killed three million Jews.”
“Now, there is three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them,” NYT quoted Duterte, describing it as one of his most outrageous statements while “misstating” the figure who died during the Holocaust, which was six million.
NYT said a preliminary investigation against Duterte will encourage the international community to take measures against him, such as imposing tariffs on Philippine goods.
“The ICC should promptly open a preliminary investigation into the killings,” its editorial said.
In an editorial last March, NYT called on the international community to revoke the Philippines’ trading privileges over the killings linked to Duterte’s war on drugs.
Duterte has denied involvement with any of the killings, saying his orders to liquidate drug offenders were within the bounds of the law.
Duterte has said he welcomed the prospect of the ICC putting him on trial. He said last month he would not be intimidated and his campaign against drugs would be unrelenting and “brutal.”
Malacañang earlier said the NYT editorial was part of a demolition job against the Duterte administration.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella had said the ICC complaint filed by Sabio was part of the efforts to shame and embarrass Duterte and the Philippine government before the global community.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo described the NYT editorial as “reckless, irresponsible and baseless.”
Panelo said the filing of a case against Duterte before the ICC was ill motivated.
He also questioned the timing of the editorial, which he said, “creates a bad impression against the President.”
Administration allies led by Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III warned the ICC of taking cognizance of the complaint filed by Sabio.
Pimentel described Sabio’s complaint as “weak” and obviously politically motivated.
“The ICC being professionals should immediately see the political purpose of this complaint,” Pimentel said.
“It’s up to the ICC if they will allow themselves to be used by domestic politics in the Philippines.”
Pimentel noted the 77-page complaint filed by Sabio alleged the Senate has been either reluctant to investigate Duterte, if not engaged in a cover-up.
Senators allied with Duterte immediately dismissed the filing as part of attempts to destabilize the administration.
Pimentel also defended Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Richard Gordon for protecting Duterte. – Paolo Romero, Janvic Mateo, Pia Lee-Brago, Christina Mendez