During a meeting with Philippine troops on Saturday, President Rodrigo Duterte advised military and police officers to remain silent if human rights investigators from the United Nations or International Criminal Court interview them.
“You know, they say they are investigating us. My God, you fools, if you are investigating us, the rule in criminal law is any statement or answer that you may give might incriminate you,” Duterte said.
“If you answer their questions, it will be freewheeling, it is recorded,” he continued. “If you are called there, you are bound by whatever you say. So the best way is to just keep silent. Just tell them, ‘We have a Commander-in-Chief.’ Haven’t I told you? I take full responsibility.”
Duterte conceded that human rights investigators would likely be angered by his advice, but he insisted silence in response to their questions is legal under Philippine constitutional law. He said international investigations of his counter-terrorism and crime-fighting policies would be “convoluted,” with many “loopholes” that could ensnare officers if they agree to answer questions.
However, he made it clear his instructions to remain silent were motivated by contempt for the investigators and the authorities they represent.
“That’s why I said: ‘Leave it to me.’ If these fools come here—are there crocodiles here? The ones that are really eating people? Throw those sons of bitches to them,” he sneered. Some translations of this statement strive to make it clear he was indeed suggesting that human rights investigators should be fed to crocodiles.
“Just say, ‘Duterte ordered it: destroy the organization.’ So what’s wrong with that? Can I not protect my country by killing people and destroying apparatus?” he asked.
He went on to insist that he never ordered any killings, only the destruction of criminal organizations, and the criminals only ended up dead because “they wanted it.”
Duterte did more than just float the notion of clamming up when the U.N. and ICC come calling while chatting with his troops—he formally issued orders to that effect on Saturday to the police and military.
Although Duterte initially claimed he welcomed, and even relished, investigations that would prove his actions were justified, he later challenged the authority of world bodies to investigate him, portrayed the investigations as politicized and corrupt, and personally insulted the investigators in crude terms. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights responded by suggesting Duterte should undergo a psychiatric evaluation, further angering the Philippine president.
In his remarks on Saturday, Duterte restated his insistence that he alone is responsible for orders given during his crackdown on drug dealers, which has resulted in an estimated 12,000 killings to date. He then joked that he would surrender himself if found guilty in international court and report to jail, provided “they give me five women.”