De Lima reveals she also filed an ICC complaint vs. Duterte

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Senator Leila de Lima has been detained on drug charges since 2017 (FILE PHOTO).

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 18) — Detained Senator Leila de Lima on Saturday denied allegations she was behind lawyer Jude Sabio's complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte in the International Criminal Court (ICC).

She added that in fact, she felt Sabio's complaint was not strong enough so she filed her own.

"As to Sabio’s Communication to the ICC, I was not 'behind' that, but I was aware of it. While substantially correct, I felt it needed enhancement," De Lima said in a statement sent from her detention cell at the Philippine National Police's Custodial Center, where has been held on drug charges since 2017. 

De Lima said she filed a complaint, formally called by the ICC as a communication, in October 2017 to complement the allegations made by Sabio, and former lawmakers Antonio Trillanes and Gary Alejano. Sabio's communication included statements of self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato and retired police officer Arturo Lascañas, that they killed people in Davao City upon the orders of then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. Trillanes and Alejano said thousands more were killed in the war on drugs since Duterte became president in 2016.

The Commission on Human Rights previously told CNN Philippines that more communications were filed by non-government organizations and concerned individuals asking the ICC to look into the Philippines' situation.

In February 2018, the ICC launched a preliminary examination which will determine whether or not it will proceed with a formal investigation into alleged extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. The tribunal targets to wrap it up this year.

Early this week, Sabio said he is withdrawing his complaint, telling the ICC that it should be "set aside and trashed" because it was being used by Duterte's critics for political propaganda, particularly De Lima and Trillanes. Sabio alleged that De Lima managed to get involved in the scheme while in detention. He added it was also De Lima who ordered him to submit Matobato's complaint against Duterte before the Philippines' Office of the Ombudsman.

De Lima did not deny helping Matobato, a witness she presented before the Senate Justice and Human Rights Committee as she led a legislative inquiry into drug war killings in 2016.

"There is nothing illegal or wrong with me helping Matobato file the charges. But I anticipate that my oppressors will again file charges against me, on top of the 14 cases (11 pending, 3 dismissed) they already orchestrated to be filed against me," De Lima said.

She added that Matobato, unlike Sabio, stands by his statements up to this day. She stressed that Sabio's turnaround will not affect the ongoing preliminary examination at the ICC.

The ICC Office of the Prosecutor earlier told CNN Philippines that no communication before them can be withdrawn, and that any supposed withdrawal would not have any impact at all to its ongoing assessment. It added that the ICC has a "wide range of reliable sources" and is not confined to information in the communications alone.

Duterte earlier pulled the country out of the ICC and repeatedly warned Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda against setting foot on the country. The ICC said it will continue looking into the Philippines' situation despite Duterte's threats and the Philippines' exit from the tribunal.