PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is hoping for a one-on-one meeting with Fatou Bensouda, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), amid the latter's decision to conduct a preliminary examination of the complaint against him.
"I hope you come. And I hope that we can be together in a room. I would ask for that rare privilege of talking to you. the two of us in the room with no [one else]," Duterte said in a press conference in Davao City, addressing Bensouda.
The Hague-based ICC will conduct an initial review of lawyer Jude Sabio's 77-page communication submitted in April 2017, which detailed Duterte's alleged involvement in the summary executions when he was then Davao City mayor until he became president.
Bensouda, in a statement released Thursday, February 8, said she would carefully examine the allegation that Duterte's war on drugs spurred human rights violation. The review would cover the period from July 2016, when Duterte assumed office as President.
"Specifically, it has been alleged that since 1 July 2016, thousands of persons have been killed for reasons related to their alleged involvement in illegal drug use or dealing," she said.
"While some of such killings have reportedly occurred in the context of clashes between or within gangs, it is alleged that many of the reported incidents involved extra-judicial killings in the course of police anti-drug operations," she added.
The President said he welcomed the preliminary examination.
He shrugged off the possibility that he might be found criminally liable for the thousands of deaths of alleged drug suspects.
"Go ahead and proceed (with) your investigation," he said. "I welcome you. And if you want to find me guilty, go ahead. So be it."
But while he welcomed the review, Duterte challenged Bensouda to also look into the "miserable agony" of the Philippines.
He also made reference to the death of Filipina migrant worker Joanna Daniela Dimapilis, whose body was discovered in a freezer in an apartment in Kuwait.
"To the prosecutor, show it (image of Dimapilis' recovered body) to her. The former mayor of Davao City says, you better read. Are you also worried about the lives of the criminals? Then, take a look at the miserable agony of my country," he said, as he defended his drug war and questioned Bensour's supposed concern for "criminals."
Sabio, legal counsel of self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato, accused Duterte of "repeatedly, unchangingly, and continuously" committing mass murder from the time he served as the mayor of Davao City until he assumed presidency in July 2016.
Sabio also noted the "terrifying, gruesome and disastrous continuing commission of extrajudicial executions or mass murder" in the country under Duterte's leadership.
Duterte's vocal critics, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano, filed a supplemental communication against the President before the ICC in June 2017.
The lawmakers' 45-page communication provided additional information on the alleged "widespread and systematic" extrajudicial killings in the country.
The ICC's preliminary examination covers the purported human rights violations associated with Duterte's deadly crackdown on illegal drugs.
Malacañang on Thursday, February 8, maintained that Duterte's anti-narcotics war was "lawful" and "legitimate." (SunStar Philippines)