2022 elections, ICC case crucial to make Duterte, allies accountable - Trillanes

Posted on August 07, 2021

By Angelle Braganza

Former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV rallied the public to reject another six years of Duterte leadership in 2022, saying this is a crucial first move to exact accountability for all the transgressions committed under the current administration.


He pointed out that the administration consistently moved to escape liabilities by stamping out opposition and undermining judicial measures. As such, the best thing Filipinos can do to ensure due process is to keep Duterte out of any elected position. 


“Ultimately, it's about kicking [Duterte] out of office in 2022. We can file so many resolutions in the Senate, but Duterte has a stranglehold over the different agencies involved in the [investigation of] EJKs (extrajudicial killings),” Trillanes said on July 26 during the fifth town hall meeting organized by the US Filipinos for Good Governance (USFGG) and INCITEGov.

Trillanes talks about the ICC case and the 2022 elections


Accountable before the ICC


On May 24, former International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda requested authorization from the Pre-Trial Chamber to investigate the Philippines’ situation from 2011 to 2019.


During the virtual town hall, the former senator shared that the ICC initiated their preliminary investigation following the communications that Trillanes’ group submitted in 2017 and 2018.


Prompted by the thousands of deaths reported during the first months of Duterte’s administration, Trillanes started documenting the killings in 2016, determined to file a case with the ICC. He claimed that “the Senate itself was being muzzled into submission by the Duterte administration.” 


“There was no ongoing investigation [on EJKs] at the national level by the Duterte government precisely because it was under direct orders from Mr. Duterte himself,” Trillanes asserted. 


Despite the initial hurdles of finding a lawyer willing to represent them to the ICC, they successfully sent their first communication through the late Jude Sabio in April 2017. They also tried to exhaust other means to investigate Duterte after the failed Senate investigations, including the impeachment case in 2017. 


When Duterte’s allies in Congress successfully “railroaded” the impeachment case, Trillanes and former Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano filed a supplemental communication with the ICC, requesting to immediately start a preliminary examination because the Philippine government is unwilling to investigate and Duterte’s presidential immunity is protecting him from prosecution, he said. 


Such a move became critical later on when Sabio tried to withdraw the case. He failed to do so because the supplemental communication affirmed the allegations outlined in the first communication, Trillanes explained.

Duterte also withdrew the Philippines’ membership from the Rome Statute in March 2018 following Bensouda’s announcement that they will initiate a preliminary examination on the "war on drugs" in the country. 


Trillanes said the withdrawal was Duterte’s attempt to escape the case. A recent Supreme Court ruling, however, asserted that the ICC retains its jurisdiction over the Philippines from 2012 to 2019. 


“Withdrawing from the Rome Statute does not discharge a state party from the obligations it has incurred as a member. [...] Consequently, liability for the alleged summary killings and other atrocities committed in the course of the war on drugs is not nullified or negated here,” the ruling stated.


Trillanes further argued that crimes committed after 2019 that follow the same pattern could also be covered in the ICC case.


He added that they are anticipating another announcement from the ICC before the year ends about the commencement of the investigation, noting that ICC rules state that the Pre-Trial Chamber must act on the request no more than 120 days upon submission.


Trillanes answers the participant’s questions regarding the ICC case


Implications of the 2022 Elections


The former senator contended that the 2022 elections would be critical in achieving the best results for the ICC case and other charges against the administration. 


“Once he is already out of power, not only would we be able to open up all the records for the investigation of the ICC, we would also arrest Mr. Duterte and bring him to the ICC to face his charges,” Trillanes said.


“For as long as he is in power, we expect that the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PNP (Philippine National Police) would not arrest him. But he may not be able to go out of the country [and go] to States that are members of the ICC,” he added.


Trillanes also advised preparing for the possibility of Duterte running for the vice-presidency as there is no explicit constitutional prohibition barring it. He noted that he personally wants to see this happen so that the Filipinos can reject Duterte and his daughter through the elections. 


“If both of them would be rejected, then it would be a symbolic rejection by the Filipino people of the Duterte name and that would be a form of redemption for us,” he said. ?