Duterte taunts ICC in SONA 2021: I never denied ‘I will kill’ in war vs drugs

Facing the possibility of an investigation into his bloody drug war, President Rodrigo Duterte taunted the International Criminal Court (ICC) during his final State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 26, daring it to even record his threats against those who “destroy” the country with illegal drugs. 

“I never denied – and the ICC can record it – those who destroy my country, I will kill you. And those who destroy the young people of my country, I will kill you, because I love my country,” Duterte said. 

Duterte spent a sizable chunk of his SONA tearing into old arguments and threats about his controversial anti-illegal drug campaign, railing against its ill effects on society. But unlike in past SONAs, the shadow of a potential ICC investigation looms over the President, who is mentioned in a report by former ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

Bensouda said in her report seeking authorization for an investigation from the ICC's pre-trial chamber that "extrajudicial killings, perpetrated across the Philippines, appear to have been committed pursuant to an official State policy of the Philippine government."

She also said: "Police and other government officials planned, ordered, and sometimes directly perpetrated extrajudicial killings. They paid police officers and vigilantes bounties for extrajudicial killings. State officials at the highest levels of government also spoke publicly and repeatedly in support of extrajudicial killings, and created a culture of impunity for those who committed them."

There was “reasonable basis to believe that the Crime Against Humanity of Murder was committed from at least 1 July 2016 to 16 March 2019 in the context of the Philippine government’s ‘war on drugs’ campaign,” Bensouda said. 

There have been at least 8,663 drug-related deaths since the start of the anti-drug campaign, based on June 2020 figures from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. But human rights groups say the drug war death toll could be as high as 20,000 to 30,000 if extrajudicial killings are included.

During his SONA on Monday, Duterte admitted there would be killings in his drug war as he complained that doing it the “legal way” would “take you months and years.” He had refused to cooperate with any investigation and said he wanted to “slap" the ICC judges. 

Duterte had continued to order cops to kill suspected drug users and dealers during his speech and even joked that Senator Ronald dela Rosa, his first police chief, should run after a former cop who was dismissed for supposedly bringing in AK-47 rifles that allegedly landed in the hands of armed communists. 

“If you see them walking around, kindly shoot them dead. Anyway, you’ll be charged in the ICC with me, so what's the problem with adding another idiot Filipino who has caused damage to the country?” Duterte said, eliciting chuckles from Bato. 

Duterte likewise asked lawmakers to prioritize a bill that would provide free legal help to cops, soldiers charged for abuses. 

Bensouda had said in her report that the “plethora of public statements made by Duterte and other Philippine government officials encouraging, supporting and, in certain instances, urging the public to kill suspected drug users and dealers also indicate a State policy to attack civilians."

Malacañang had earlier slammed as "politically-motivated" and "legally erroneous" Bensouda's move to request for a formal probe into Duterte's controversial anti-illegal drugs campaign. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.