Rodrigo Duterte has announced that he will pull the Philippines out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) as it continues to examine allegations surrounding his brutal drug war.
In a statement denouncing both the ICC and the United Nations, Duterte accused the bodies of orchestrating “baseless, unprecedented and outrageous attacks on my person.”
“It is apparent that the ICC is being utilized as a political tool against the Philippines,” Duterte said. “There appears to be a concerted effort on the part of the U.N. special rapporteurs to paint me as a ruthless and heartless violator of human rights who allegedly caused thousands of extrajudicial killings.”
“The acts allegedly committed by me are neither genocide nor war crimes,” he continued. “The deaths occurring in the process of legitimate police operations lacked the intent to kill.”
The ICC began investigating the crackdown in February over allegations of extra-judicial killings. Duterte repeatedly urged his security forces to “spare no one” in the process of ridding the country of widespread drug crime.
Duterte has made no secret of his contempt for the organization, previously describing it as “bullshit” and that its European lawyers have “brains like a pea.” This week, he also suggested investigators should be fed to crocodiles.
The announcement immediately drew criticism from opponents and human rights groups, who are increasingly describing Duterte as a tyrannical leader similar to former military dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
“Duterte intends to impose his fascist and tyrannical tendencies even against international critics,” said Sarah Elago, a representative of the opposition Kabataan party. “Only the guilty become too eager to run away from prosecution,” Elago added. “If indeed he wants to prove his innocence, what better platform than a court?”
“Powerful individuals in the Philippines are more interested in covering up their own potential accountability for killings than they are in ensuring justice for the many victims of the country’s brutal war on drugs,” added Amnesty International’s south-east Asia director James Gomez.
International organizations and actors have become increasingly concerned over alleged human rights abuses under Duterte, as security forces continue to wage war on other destabilizing groups such as communists insurgents and the Islamic State. An estimated 7,000 people have been killed since he took office in 2016.
Nevertheless, Duterte maintains extremely high approval ratings among the population of around 80 percent, making him one of the most popular world leaders, and recently urged troops to “shoot” him if he ever became a dictator.
Concerns have also emerged over the freedom of the press after authorities revoked the operating license of Rappler, one of the country’s most popular news websites, which Duterte attributed to a clause within the Filipino constitution.