President Rodrigo Duterte was invoking the principle of complementarity when he said the International Criminal Court (ICC) would “not in a million years” acquire jurisdiction over him, according to Malacañang.
This principle means that the ICC can only hear a case if the courts in the concerned state are unable or unwilling to act on a certain case, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.
But since Philippine courts are working and Mr. Duterte would lose his immunity once his term ends, this means the ICC could not have jurisdiction over the President.
“That’s what the President means. Because of complementarity, the court will never have jurisdiction over his person,” Roque said in a press briefing in Palawan.
Mr. Duterte on Tuesday struck a defiant tone against the ICC, which had started the preliminary examination of allegations of crimes against humanity in connection with the war on drugs in the Philippines, where thousands of suspected pushers and users had been killed.
“You cannot acquire jurisdiction over me—not in a million years. That is why I’m not answering,” Mr. Duterte said during the oathtaking of the officials of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission.
The preliminary examination is intended to determine if there is a basis to proceed with an investigation.
This followed the submission to the ICC of a letter from Jude Sabio, lawyer of confessed Davao Death Squad killer Edgar Matobato, which said that crimes against humanity were being committed in the Philippines.
Roque on Wednesday also said any case against Mr. Duterte would not prosper on the merits.
What is happening in the Philippines cannot be considered a crime against humanity because the campaign against drugs does not only target civilians, he said.
“It is the official exercise of police power of the state and it has a legitimate purpose: to curb the proliferation of illegal drugs,” he said.
Last month, Roque quoted Mr. Duterte as saying that he welcomed the preliminary examination because he was sick and tired of being accused of committing crimes against humanity.
“The President has said that if need be he will argue his case personally before the [ICC],” he said.