Roque: Case vs. Duterte at ICC may not prosper

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Kabayan Party-list Rep. Harry Roque said any case filed against President Rodrigo Duterte before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in relation to alleged extrajudicial killings (EJK) will unlikely prosper.

Roque issued the statement on Wednesday as Jude Sabio, lawyer of alleged Davao Death Squad (DDS) member Edgar Matobato, said they are eyeing to file a case by April against Duterte at the ICC for crimes against humanity.

Sabio said their burden is to prove systematic killing in the drug war. He is confident the case will prosper given the statements of Matobato, alleged DDS co-founder SPO3 Arthur Lascañas and other witnesses.

Read: Lascañas says he killed more than 200; tags Duterte in death squad

"Malinaw na yung 8,000 na namamatay ngayon dahil sa EJK," Sabio said. "Malinaw na ginawa niya dahil ginawa niya na noon sa Davao. 'Yon ang magiging takbo ng kaso sa ICC."

[Translation: It's clear that 8,000 have died because of EJK. It's clear that he did it because he's done it before in Davao. That will how the case will run in the ICC.]

Sabio also said findings from human rights groups and Amnesty International can be used as evidence. The groups claimed over 7,000 alleged killings in the drug war were encouraged by Duterte.

Read: Amnesty International calls out Duterte's drug war

But Roque, who specializes in human rights and international law, said to prove crimes against humanity, Matobato's camp has to show the deeds were systematic or widespread.

He added they need to establish the principle of complementarity.

"The ICC will only exercise jurisdiction if local courts are unable or unwilling to do so," Roque said. "So you have to show that there has been a filing first in the Philippines and that it did not succeed before you go to the International Criminal Court. The ICC was not established by states to be a court of first instance. It is the court of last resort."

Roque also said this principle may be difficult to establish since there are already cases filed against Duterte at the Ombudsman.

But Sabio argued it would be difficult to sue Duterte in the Philippines.

"Hindi tayo pwede magkaso dito dahil magkakaso tayo sa police, kanila yung police, kanila yung DOJ, yung NBI. Saan tayo pupunta, saan tayo patungo? Sa Ombdusman ay mga kaso noong siya ay mayor pa. Hindi 'yon mga kaso tungkol sa patayan na nangyayari pagkatapos niya maging Pangulo."

[Translation: We can't file a case here because they're with the police, they're with the DOJ, the NBI. Where will we go? He (Duterte) has cases at the Ombudsman when he was still mayor. Those weren't cases about killings  that happened after he became President.]

Meanwhile, Roque said the statements of Matobato and Lascañas may not help since their accounts took place even before the Philippines became a member state of the criminal court in the Hague in 2011.

He added the ICC is "a very, very conservative court. it's not a place where you can get easy convictions."

Roque instead suggested an alternative: filing charges against policemen who have been targeting civilians.

Read: 'Tokhang' survivor files charges vs 4 policemen