Aguirre ‘amused, disappointed’ over case vs. President Duterte in ICC

MANILA — “I am both amused and disappointed.”

This was the statement of Justice Secretary Vitaliano N. Aguirre II on Thursday in response to the complaint filed by Jude Josue Sabio, the lawyer of self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato, before the International Criminal Court (ICC) against President Rodrigo Duterte and 11 senior government officials.

“Initially, I found the filing of the case amusing. Not only are the allegations contained therein utterly false, they are purely hearsay,” Aguirre said when informed of the filing of the case against him, President Duterte and other government officials in the ICC.

“Edgar Matobato is a discredited witness whose lack of credibility has been conclusively and glaringly established in the hearings before the Philippine Senate, an august and a respectable institution, last year. If a majority of the Filipino people did not believed him before, why should the ICC believe him now? The equation is simple, if the source is polluted, the output is likewise polluted. Does anybody, in their right mind, still believe Matobato,” he added.

The DOJ Secretary said that as a respondent, he sees Sabio as someone who apparently threw a net in the sea with this case and want to see how many fishes they can catch before the ICC.

“Sorry to disappoint them this early, they will catch none. Their case is substantially and procedurally infirm and bereft of merit. Take the allegations against me, I have categorically denied, time and again, I never said that drug lords are not humans. I was deliberately misquoted. What I said is that drug lords are not humanity,” he explained.

“I even clarified this during my confirmation hearing before the Commission on Appoinments that what I meant was that drug lords cannot be equated with humanity. I was confirmed right? And I still maintain that stance even today. Anybody who deliberately profits from the sale of illegal drugs which destroy the lives, the future and the families of their buyers cannot really be equated with humanity,” he stressed.

Aguirre, who is also a lawyer, said he is disappointed with Sabio’s act.

“I am disappointed with Atty. Sabio. As a brethren in the noble profession of lawyering, he has sunk so low. He has deliberately prostituted himself at the altar of greed and self interest. He has disregarded our Lawyer’s Oath that a lawyer shall not do any falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any. His present action totally disregarded the warning issued to him by the Supreme Court itself in the August 11, 2008 case of Judge Alden V. Cervantes vs. Atty. Jude Josue L. Sabio,” said Aguirre.

He noted that there are people behind to the actions of Matobato and Sabio to destabilize the Duterte administration.

“Matobato, Sabio and whoever is behind them are out to destabilize the Duterte administration by discrediting it before the international community. I believe that somebody is behind them because they will not be so brazen in their actions if there is no one holding the strings, purse strings included, behind the scenes. Ask them who is paying for their expenses in going to the ICC,” Aguirre noted

Are these funders public officials at present? If yes, are they using the public funds of their offices to undermine the government? If yes, they should be investigated and be made accountable. If, on the other hand, the funding is private, then it is still an act of destabilization. These destabilizers do not want the Filipino people to have a drug free future. They hate it when the greater majority of our countrymen benefit from the many gains of the Duterte administration. To them and their kind, I say, bring it on!”, Aguirre added.

Earlier, Solicitor General Jose C. Calida, the government’s top lawyer said the suit was baseless and should be dismissed by the ICC for lack of jurisdiction.

On Monday, Sabio filed a complaint before the ICC in The Hague, Netherlands, accusing President Rodrigo Duterte and 11 other government officials of crimes against humanity.

“At this stage, based on the communication, the ICC has no jurisdiction to take cognizance of the case,” the solicitor general said. “The case will not progress beyond the filing of the communication as it is utterly bereft of merit,” Calida said in a statement.

Sabio filed a criminal case for crimes against humanity noting that President Duterte allegedly violated the Articles of the Rome Statute through commission of mass murder or extrajudicial executions during his term as Davao City mayor and now President of the Philippines through his aggressive campaign against illegal drugs. Reports showed thousands of drug suspects in Davao City and nationwide have been killed in the administration’s drug campaign.

“There is no State policy, express or implied, directing an attack against any civilian population or the sanctioning of extrajudicial killings on drug-related cases. This basically removes this case from the purview of crimes against humanity under Article 7 of the Rome Statute,” Calida explained.

The solicitor general said that the important element of mens rea to commit crimes against humanity does not exist in this case.

“To satisfy the requisite element of mens rea in these crimes, an accused must be aware that his acts are part of a widespread or systematic attack on a civilian population and that these acts are pursuant to some kind of policy or plan,” the solicitor general said.

According to Calida, President Duterte has openly condemned the killing of innocent civilians in the pursuit of legitimate law enforcement operations.

“The apparent image of widespread and systematic extrajudicial killings is belied by the concrete actions initiated by the President and the sanctions imposed against erring law enforcers,” Calida said.

Calida also said that the case must meet the gravity threshold set forth in the Rome Statute to justify further action by the ICC.

According to Calida, the ICC normally considers the scale, nature, manner of commission of the crimes, and their impact in determining whether a case meets the gravity threshold.

“As to the element of the manner of commission, since there is no state-sponsored plan or policy, the situation does not fall within the scope of the ICC’s mandate,” Calida explained.

“It must be stressed that the ICC does not replace the national courts of a particular country,” Calida said.

“The principle of complementarity underpins the creation of the ICC. The ICC may only exercise jurisdiction where national legal systems fail to do so,” he noted

According to Calida, there are adequate laws and remedies available in the Philippines to address the issue of alleged extrajudicial killings. Christopher Lloyd  Caliwan/