Philippine President’s Daughter: Will Help with ICC Probe, if Govt Allows

Dennis Jay Santos
Davao, Philippines
2021-06-16
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Philippine President’s Daughter: Will Help with ICC Probe, if Govt Allows Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (left) and his daughter, Sara, arrive to attend the enthronement ceremony of Japan’s Emperor Naruhito in Tokyo, Oct. 22, 2019.
[Reuters]

The Philippine leader’s daughter, a potential presidential candidate, said Wednesday she would help with a possible international probe into alleged extrajudicial killings carried out under the Duterte administration’s war on drugs, if the government gave her permission.

Sara Duterte is mayor of southern Davao City, where rights groups allege that Rodrigo Duterte, her father, targeted political foes and criminals when he served in that post before becoming president.

“If they need anything from the city government of Davao, we are open and willing to help, subject to the permission from the national government,” Sara Duterte said over local radio here.

“So if the DILG tells us [to] open whatever documents they need, we [will] send it to them. We will follow,” she said, referring to the Department of Interior and Local Government.

In a request to the pre-trial chamber of the International Criminal Court in The Hague on Monday, then-ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda asked for the greenlight to investigate the Philippines’ counter-narcotics campaign.

She said that tens of thousands of people may have been victims of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines from mid-2016, when Duterte took office, to March 2019. Separately, Karim Asad Ahmad Khan, was sworn in on Wednesday as the ICC’s new chief prosecutor.

Duterte withdrew the Philippines from the international court in 2019 to thwart its investigation into his country’s war on illegal drugs. He ascended to the presidency after an electoral campaign promise to rid the Philippines of drug addicts and dealers.

Duterte’s daughter, 43, is widely believed to be preparing for a presidential run next year when her father vacates the post as required by constitution-stipulated term limits.

On Wednesday, when asked how she would handle a potential ICC investigation into her father, Sara Duterte said she hasn’t made up her mind yet about a potential run for president next year.

President Duterte, however, signaled that he may consider running for vice-president in 2022.

“There are a lot of people pushing me to run for vice president. It’s a good idea I think, particularly if we talk about the drug problem,” he said during a speech on Wednesday, according to a transcript from the presidential palace.

Politicians have until October to file their candidacies for the 2022 polls.

‘The march of justice’

Meanwhile, Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, the president’s former personal assistant and a key ally, said on Wednesday that Duterte’s war on drugs would continue until he stepped down next year, whether or not the ICC carries out its investigation.

“President Duterte will not stop in his campaign against illegal drugs,” Go said in a statement.

“Ask around you, and people would tell you that they no longer fear if their children walk alone at night. The people can feel the changes, that they are more secure and have peace of mind that their children can come home safely.”

Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, said earlier this week that ICC prosecutor Bensouda’s report on the Philippines was politically motivated and the president would never cooperate with an ICC probe.

Sen. Leila de Lima, Duterte’s arch critic, welcomed the ICC move to investigate the killings.

A former head of the Commission on Human Rights, de Lima has been in prison on what she says are trumped up charges that she profited from drug trafficking. She also angered Duterte when she investigated reports of extrajudicial killings by a death squad allegedly set up by Duterte in Davao City.

“So the International Criminal Court is now at your door, behind it are thousands of victims of your bloodbath,” she said from jail,” de Lima said in a statement from prison.

“That is not karma. That’s the march of justice about to trounce you.”

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