Still smarting from the decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to conduct preliminary examinations into his anti-drugs campaign, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to have ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda arrested if she sets foot in the country to proceed with her probe.
"You cannot exercise any proceedings here without basis. That is illegal and I will arrest you," he warned Bensouda during a press conference in Davao City upon his arrival from trips to China and Hong Kong on Friday, April 13.
"Kaya ikaw, Ms Fatou, huwag kang pumunta dito kasi (So, Ms Fatou, don't come here because) I will bar you," the Philippine leader added.
Duterte made the statement as part of his lenghty response to a question on Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno's pronouncement that the Duterte administration was devoting its resources to oust her. He began his response by hitting Sereno's position early in his administration that people should not to allow their warrantless arrest.
ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, however, has no reason yet to head to the Philippines as the court has only begun preliminary examinations into killings being linked to Duterte's campaign against illegal drugs.
During the preliminary examination, the ICC would determine whether it has jurisdiction over the complaint filed by two Filipino lawyers. If it has jurisdiction, the ICC could proceed with an investigation. This is the only time when the ICC prosecutor can visit the Philippines. (WATCH: The International Criminal Court process)
Even if the prosecution requests an arrest warrant from ICC judges, the ICC will rely on law enforcement agencies of the Philippines to make the arrest. It does not have its own enforcement agency.
Duterte again reiterated his arguments against the ICC, and emphasized he is not afraid of the court.
"Not because I am afraid of you, I said, because you will never have jurisdiction over my person, not in a million years. What is your authority now if we are not members of your treaty?" he said.
The Philippines formally notified the United Nations of its withdrawal from the ICC in March, but this would take effect only a year after notification. Duterte, alleged that the ratification of the Rome statute was fraudulent. (READ: What the Rome statute says about withdrawing from the Int'l Criminal Court)
Various groups, including the International Commission of Jurists, urged the Philippine government to reconsider its decision which they called "hasty" and "ill-conceived."
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.