Duterte Is Accused of Murder in New Filing at Hague Court
MANILA — Relatives of eight people killed by Philippine police officers during President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs have accused the president of murder in a complaint filed with the International Criminal Court, their lawyer said on Tuesday.
The complaint is the second brought at the Hague-based court against Mr. Duterte, 73, over the anti-narcotics crackdown, which has left thousands dead at the hands of police officers and unknown gunmen since he took office in 2016.
Neri Colmenares, president of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, which is representing the family members of the slain Filipinos, said they hoped to hold Mr. Duterte accountable “for his crimes against humanity committed through acts of murder for the extrajudicial killings of thousands of Filipinos and other inhumane acts.”
The complaint is unlikely to have much practical effect, since Mr. Duterte’s government does not recognize the international court. He said in March that he was withdrawing the Philippines from the treaty that established it.
The new complaint comes as Mr. Duterte is strengthening his grip on the Philippines’ judicial system. Over the weekend, he announced the selection of Teresita de Castro as the new chief justice of the Supreme Court, replacing Maria Lourdes Sereno, a fierce critic of Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs. The two women are archrivals.
A rights group, Rise Up for Life and for Rights, which has also joined the new complaint, expressed optimism about the case, saying there was “more than enough proof of widespread and systematic attacks against civilians.”
Dennise David, one of the plaintiffs, said he feared severe repercussions for his actions but wanted justice for his son, John Jezreel David.
The younger Mr. David, whose family lives in the Tondo slum district in Manila, went missing in January shortly after leaving work. The family was later told to retrieve his body at a funeral parlor. The police said he was killed after pulling a gun on arresting officers.
Details of his death are murky, but the complaint alleges that discrepancies in the police reports indicate the younger Mr. David was singled out by the police.
“We cry out for justice for our son — a hard-working young man who was just picked up at a police checkpoint on his way from work,” Dennise David said. “But this is bigger than us now. I don’t want others to suffer the same fate as that of my son.”
The first complaint against Mr. Duterte at the International Criminal Court was filed last year by two men who said they had been his paid assassins. One, a former police officer, said he ran a hit squad for Mr. Duterte when the future president was the mayor of Davao, a city in the southern Philippines.
In February, the tribunal said it was opening a preliminary inquiry into the men’s accusations. Mr. Duterte responded in March by pulling the country out of the tribunal, saying it was being used as a “political tool” and accusing it of painting him as a “heartless violator of human rights.”
Mr. Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, played down the new complaint on Tuesday, calling it “doomed” because of the Philippines’ withdrawal from the tribunal.