Will Ombudsman’s Davao Death Squad probe affect ICC complaint?

Lian Buan
Will Ombudsman’s Davao Death Squad probe affect ICC complaint?
Matobato has personally testified before Ombudsman investigators

MANILA, Philippines – The ongoing investigation of the Office of the Ombudsman on the claims of self-confessed “Davao Death Squad” (DDS) hitman Edgar Matobato may render moot a similar complaint filed before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

This was the assessment of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales on Tuesday, April 25, during a news conference.

The ICC can only complement Philippine laws, so if they believe that the Philippine government is doing something to control or act upon the complaint, or the subject of the complaint of Matobato, then probably the ICC will not move because it’s supposed to complement only,” Morales said. 

Morales was asked whether a report, or findings coming from them, can be taken as proof of the Philippines’ “willingness to investigate” the complaint, and be taken as reason to take the ICC out of the picture.

By principle, the ICC will act only when it believes that the country of origin has ignored a complaint and that chances of an investigation, more so a prosecution, are nil.

In a Rappler IQ piece by law professor Perfecto Caparas, he said that the “ICC can step in, pursuant to the principle of complementarity, if the Philippines is shown to be unwilling or unable to investigate, prosecute, and try in good faith.” (READ: Things to know about Duterte’s pet peeve ICC)

Morales, however, clarified that it’s still the discretion of the ICC whether or not to proceed with the complaint lodged before it.

“It’s up to the ICC to determine if the requirements for filing a case to the ICC have been met. It’s up to them to determine,” Morales said.

Matobato’s complaint, filed in December before the Ombudsman, seeks to charge President Rodrigo Duterte with murder, kidnapping, torture, and crimes against humanity in connection with alleged summary killings in Davao City when Duterte was still mayor.

“Matobato, I think, has been summoned and he had showed up in the office. So his testimony has been recorded. It’s still pending investigation,” Morales said.

It was unclear when Matobato went to the Ombudsman. He was ordered arrested last March by a Manila court and consequently posted a P200,000-bail. (READ: Edgar Matobato: Liar or truth-teller?)

On Monday, April 24, Matobato’s laywer Jude Sabio submitted his complaint to ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

Before Matobato’s complaint in December, the Ombudsman had once terminated investigations into the alleged existence of the DDS.

In 2012, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) issued a resolution which found “probable cause” and referred to the Ombudsman the investigation into Duterte’s possible liabilities.

Rappler’s investigative team obtained a letter sent to the CHR by the Ombudsman dated January 15, 2016, which said the investigation had been “closed and terminated.”

Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang said then that “no evidence was gathered to support the killings attributed or attributable to the DDS.” (READ: FACT CHECK: Did CHR really clear Duterte over Davao Death Squad? Rappler.com

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.