Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte taunted the International Criminal Court for opening a probe into claims his administration has overseen a wave of extrajudicial killings in its brutal war on drugs, saying he’d rather be shot by firing squad than face prison if found guilty.
“I don’t want imprisonment. I beg of you to find a country where they execute,” Duterte told reporters during a feisty press conference on Friday. “Go ahead and proceed in your investigation. Find me guilty, of course. You can do that.”
The day before, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced that the inter-governmental body would launch a “preliminary examination” into allegations that “thousands of persons have been killed for reasons related to their alleged involvement in illegal drug use or dealing” in the Philippines since Duterte came to power.
Police have killed almost 4,000 “drug personalities” since July 1, 2016 under Duterte, according to official government numbers. But rights groups say the total number of victims, mostly small-time pushers and users, is far higher. Human Rights Watch estimates more than 12,000 people have been killed in Duterte’s drug war.
On Friday, Duterte took personal aim at Bensouda, saying: “I would ask for the rare privilege of talking to you. Just the two of us in the room.”
Duterte went on to say he doubts the ICC has jurisdiction in the Philippines, because a formal announcement on accession to the ICC’s Rome Statute in 2011 was never been printed in the country’s official gazette.
Human rights groups have welcomed the ICC announcement. The actions carried out under Duterte’s watch “meet the threshold for crimes against humanity,” Amnesty International's Director of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, James Gomez, said.
Cover image: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, wearing a military uniform, reviews scout ranger troops upon his arrival during the 67th founding anniversary of the First Scout Ranger regiment in San Miguel town, Bulacan province, north of Manila, Philippines November 24, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco