Duterte warns ICC prosecutor of arrest in PH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 13) — President Rodrigo Duterte yet again issued strong words against the International Criminal Court (ICC), this time threatening to arrest its chief prosecutor if she sets foot in the country to investigate the government's drug war.

"Kaya ikaw Ms. Fatou, 'wag kang pumunta dito (Do not go here, Ms. Fatou) because I will bar you. Not because I am afraid of you, I said, because you will never have jurisdiction over my person, not in a million years," Duterte said in a press briefing early Friday, upon his return from official visits to China and Hong Kong.

Duterte referred to ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda who announced in February that her office will conduct a preliminary examination on the country's bloody anti-drug campaign.

Duterte let out an expletive as he maintained that the Philippines was never a member of the ICC, saying the international tribunal has no jurisdiction over the country.

He argued that the country's ratification of the Rome Statute, the treaty that formed that ICC, was never published on government website Official Gazette.

"What is your authority now? If we are not members of the treaty, why are you f****** in this country?" Duterte said.

"You cannot exercise any proceedings here without basis. That is illegal and I will arrest you," he added.

Duterte's turnaround

Duterte in February said he welcomed the ICC's review.

In March however, Duterte said the ICC had no jurisdiction over him and pulled the country out of the tribunal. His officials later explained that the Philippines could not be considered a member of the ICC to begin with, since there was no publication of its membership in the government website.

For its part, the ICC said it will push through with its preliminary examination. This step will determine whether there is cause to go on a full-blown investigation.

Malacañang said it will not cooperate with the probe, and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Philippine National Police – the agencies leading the anti-drug campaign – are following its lead.

ICC looks into drug killings

The ICC's review was launched after lawyer Jude Sabio filed a communication against Duterte at the ICC, followed by supplemental information from opposition lawmakers Senator Antonio Trillanes and Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano. They said over a thousand were killed by the so-called Davao Death Squad under the leadership of then Mayor Duterte, and thousands more were killed in the government's war on drugs since Duterte took office.

More than 4,000 suspects were killed in anti-drug operations since the start of the bloody drug war in July 2016, government data show. Local and international human rights groups said Duterte in his public pronouncements ordered or encouraged policemen to kill those involved in the drug trade. They said this resulted in more than 13,000 extrajudicial killings in the drug war.

Malacañang has said there are no state-sponsored killings and it is committed to investigate officers who violate and abuse their authority.