Lawyer asks international court to look into 'mass murder' in PH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 24) — A Filipino lawyer filed a communication with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague against President Rodrigo Duterte and several top officials over what he calls "continuing mass murder" in the country.

Jude Sabio charged Duterte with crimes against humanity for violating the treaty that created the ICC.

He claimed mass murder is "repeatedly, unchangingly, and continuously" being committed by Duterte, adding it is part of a systematic attack against civilians.

Sabio said 1,400 individuals were killed by the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS) under the leadership of then Mayor Duterte. He added at the national level, 7,000 individuals were killed by the government's war on drugs since Duterte took office.

Related: Drug-related deaths only under 4,000, not 7,000, PNP Chief says

Sabio cited similarities between the scheme of the DDS and the drug war.

"In the ultimate analysis, this communication will present a situation for the determination and finding by the International Criminal Court of individual criminal liability or responsibility on the part of Mayor and President Duterte over the continuing commission of mass murder," Sabio said in his 77-page communication to the ICC.

Related: PNP relaunches 'less bloody' Oplan Tokhang

Sabio is the lawyer of self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato.



Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, meanwhile, said that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the communication against the President. He added that the alleged killings do not fall under genocide or crimes against humanity.

Other top officials involved

Others in the communication are Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, Philippine National Police chief Ronald Dela Rosa, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, former Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno, National Bureau of Investigation Director Dante Gierran, and Solicitor General Jose Calida.

He included as well Senator Richard Gordon for saying the killings were not state-sponsored and for ending the Senate probe on alleged extrajudicial killings, and Senator Alan Peter Cayetano for "aiding and abetting" the killings.

Police officers were also in the communication: Manila police chief P/Supt. Edilberto Leonardo, Senior Police Office 4 Sonny Buenaventura, and P/Supt. Royina Garma.

Related: Killing criminals not crime vs. humanity – Duterte

Why go to the ICC?

Sabio said local and international human rights groups called government's attention to stop the killings drug war, but claimed Duterte and his officials ignored this and even covered up the issue.

He said these are the reasons why he chose to elevate his communication to the ICC.

"It is for these reasons that I have referred this case to the ICC to make President Duterte accountable for his crimes in the name of international criminal justice, and to once and for all end this dark, obscene, murderous, and evil era in the Philippines," Sabio said.

Actions asked

Sabio asked the ICC to conduct a preliminary examination based on his complaint and the reports of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch of supposed extrajudicial killings in the country.

Related: Duterte encourages vigilante killings, tolerates police modus – Human Rights Watch

He also asked the ICC to open a formal investigation on the issue.

"After filing the case, the Office of the Prosecutor will determine whether the case is within the jurisdiction of the ICC and if it is proper to file criminal charges against the accused, before investigating the case and issuing Warrant of Arrest against them," Sabio said.


CNN Philippines correspondent Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.

This story was updated on April 25 to attach the ICC communication