The New York Times’ (NYT) editorial board published a commentary focused on a Philippine lawyer’s request to the International Criminal Court in the Hague to charge the country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, with mass murder and crimes against humanity for his crackdown on drug traffickers.
“A Filipino lawyer formally asked the International Criminal Court on Monday to charge President Rodrigo Duterte and 11 officials with mass murder and crimes against humanity over the extrajudicial killings of thousands of people in the Philippines over the past three decades,” the NYT editorial stated, under the headline “Let the World Condemn Duterte.”
“The I.C.C. should promptly open a preliminary investigation into the killings,” the editorial stated.
Attorney Jude Josue Sabio filed the complaint under his name, but he is also representing two men who claim they were paid members of Duterte’s so-called death squad, according to the Times.
The complaint reports the deaths of 9,400 people, including political rivals and innocent civilian adults and children.
“Mr. Sabio is not the first to accuse Mr. Duterte of mass killings — so have Human Rights Watch, in 2009; Amnesty International, this January; and some brave Filipino politicians. The I.C.C. chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, declared last October that the court was ‘closely following’ developments in the Philippines,” the editorial stated.
The Times notes that, despite these facts, Duterte remains popular and the conditions might not meet the requirements for the high court’s consideration.
“But there is already more than enough evidence for a preliminary investigation, which would send an unmistakable signal to Mr. Duterte that he may eventually have to answer for his crimes, and would encourage governments to take measures against him, such as imposing tariffs on Philippine goods,” the editorial stated.
“This is a man who must be stopped,” the editorial concluded.
The Philippine Star reported Wednesday that President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson called the Times editorial “reckless, irresponsible and baseless.”
Ernesto Abella said that, while Duterte’s administration recognizes the newspaper’s right to state an opinion, the government has a “clear disagreement” with the editorial because it was based on Sabio’s complaint.
“Sabio is the lawyer of Edgar Matobato, who last year admitted that he was a member of a killing squad that was allegedly used by Duterte to eliminate drug suspects, criminals and political opponents when he was still the mayor of Davao City in southern Philippines,” the Star reported.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, a longtime Duterte critic praised the Times editorial, saying that the evidence against him is “quite substantial.”
“[Duterte] recently offered a reward for information leading to the capture of Abu Sayyaf and other militants behind a foiled attack in the central province of Bohol,” the UK Independent reported: “Eight militants, three soldiers, a policeman and two villagers have died in clashes in Bohol, which lies far from the southern jungle bases of the militants.”