Duterte welcomes ICC probe: If you find me guilty, so be it

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President Rodrigo Duterte. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 10) — President Rodrigo Duterte said Friday he welcomes the International Criminal Court's (ICC) move to conduct a preliminary review of drug killings in the Philippines.

In a media briefing Friday, an undaunted Duterte addressed the ICC.

"I hope you come…I welcome you and if you want to find me guilty, go ahead. So be it," he said.

Duterte even said he was prepared should he be found guilty.

"Find me guilty, of course, you can do that. I do not want imprisonment. I said, 'I beg of you to find a country where they execute,'" he said.

Duterte said this as the ICC on Thursday announced it would start preliminary examinations on drug killings in the country.

The Philippines is a state party to the ICC, the "court of last resort." 

The ICC, which complements national courts, handles what it defines as "the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole," including crimes against humanity. 

It can, however, only investigate if the Philippines does not or "is unwilling or unable" to probe the crimes.

The preliminary examination is not an investigation, the ICC said, but a process to see if there is basis to proceed with an investigation.

Duterte said if an ICC representative would come, he would want to speak to them one-on-one.

Despite welcoming the ICC's move, the President claimed there was no clear-cut definition of extrajudicial killings.

Malacañang had said there is no extrajudicial killing in the country, based on the definition in the operational guidelines of Administrative Order No. 35, which created an inter-agency committee on extralegal killings in 2012.

Under this order, a killing is considered extrajudicial when "the victim was targeted and killed because of the actual or perceived membership, advocacy, or profession."

Duterte further said laws must be published in the Official Gazette in order to become effective.

"But those laws were submitted to you but were not published, 'yung mga definition of what are the crimes that you can take cognizance of," he said.

He also questioned why the ICC is reviewing the Philippines when there are other crimes to be investigated elsewhere.

"Well, I do not want to appear na I'm trying to avoid liability. Basta sinabi ko lang na, eh kung ganun ang style nila, karami ngayong mass rape. Bakit ako [There's so much mass rape happening elsewhere. Why me?]" he said.

The President again threatened to withdraw from the ICC.

"Karaming massacre diyan ngayon. In all parts of Asia... ako pa 'yung gusto ninyong tirahin [There are so many massacres now in all parts of Asia and you want to target me]… You better clear that up because I will withdraw from the ICC," he said.

On Thursday Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the President welcomed the preliminary examination "because he is sick and tired of being accused of the commission of crimes against humanity."

The President sees the ICC examination as an opportunity to belie allegations against him, Roque added.

The Duterte administration has been subject to international scrutiny over the supposed high death toll in its brutal war on drugs.

While government data show that those killed in such operations have reached only 4,000, rights group claim the number has gone as high as 13,000.