Rodrigo Duterte

Duterte says he’s ready to ‘rot in prison’ after ICC rejects PH appeal

Bea Cupin

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Duterte says he’s ready to ‘rot in prison’ after ICC rejects PH appeal

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte blows a kiss to his supporters during the "Salamat PRRD" thanksgiving concert at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila on June 26, 2022. VALERIE ESCALERA/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO


The International Criminal Court rejects a bid to postpone its probe into Duterte's bloody war on drugs

MANILA, Philippines — Former Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte said he would “face the music” and “rot in prison” after the International Criminal Court (ICC) rejected an appeal to postpone its probe into his bloody war on drugs.

Wala akong pakialam basta ginawa ko yung dapat kong gawin (I don’t care, as long as I did what I had to do),” said Duterte, speaking before the National Convention of the Philippine Prosecutor’s League in Davao City on Wednesday, March 29. Excerpts from his speech were posted on Twitter by ABS-CBN News reporter Chrislen Bulosan.

In a decision dated March 27, the ICC thumbed down the Philippine government’s bid to suspend its investigation, thereby giving the green light for ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan to continue investigating Duterte’s war on drugs.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who presented himself as Duterte’s continuity candidate in the 2022 polls, said the decision meant the Philippines would then “disengage” from the ICC.

“If it turns out to be awful later, wala tayong magawa (there’s nothing we can do). I’ll face the music. I will rot in prison. I will die in prison,” added Duterte.

By “awful later,” Duterte was referring to the ICC probe into his bloody war on drugs.

The toll of his bloody campaign was certainly more than awful — government data estimates 6,252 individuals were killed in police anti-illegal drug operations as of May 2022. Human rights groups estimate between 27,000 to 30,000 Filipinos were killed vigilante-style in the name of Duterte’s drug war.

The drug war was among Duterte’s key campaign promises in the 2016 elections. In interviews, public speeches, and through official orders, Duterte promised to get rid of illegal drugs in the country, initially within the three to six months since assuming office. The drug war, through different iterations, went on until he exited Malacañang.

Marcos and Duterte, same arguments

Duterte, who turned 78 on March 28, joked on Wednesday that he would rather die in Muntinlupa, a reference to the New Bilibid Prison in the southern Metro Manila city. He also said that the ICC might not catch him in time, since he figured he’d be dead — tigok, in Filipino — by the time he turns 80.

Duterte and his allies have long argued, often falsely, that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the case. The past administration has also insisted that the Philippine criminal justice system was working, even as only three convictions on cops have been made since the drug war began. Survivors of those killed in the bloody campaign have decried the long and seemingly endless road to justice.

Marcos, whom Duterte once called a “weak leader,” has made the same assertions as the past administration. His appointed officials, whose agencies deal with cases linked to the drug war, have insisted as much.

The two politicians, their clans, and their allies make up the ruling coalition in the Philippines. Marcos’ 2022 election running mate was Duterte’s daughter and political heir, now Vice President Sara Duterte.

That the current administration has staunchly defended the older Duterte, despite Marcos seemingly distancing himself from the way the drug war was run, is not surprising.

Former senator Leila de Lima, one of Duterte’s most vocal critics, said on Tuesday that the Philippine government should not be taking the burden of defending Duterte and his drug war before the ICC.

“The government should never take the cudgels for every public officer, let alone a former official, accused of committing criminal acts in the guise of defending Philippine sovereignty and jurisdiction over the criminals. Let Duterte and his co-conspirators in the drug war face the music before the ICC. Be on the side of humanity. Be on the right side of history,” said De Lima, who was jailed not even a year into Duterte’s term, over illegal drugs charges she said were trumped up.

De Lima steered early attempts in the Senate to probe the bloody drug war, as well as link it to past killings attributed to the so-called “Davao Death Squad” when Duterte was Davao mayor. The former Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chair likewise led a probe into killings in Davao City, which the ICC is also investigating. –

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.