A phone conversation gave her away, President Duterte said on Friday referring to Filipino-American businesswoman Loida Nicolas Lewis’ allegedly conspiring with the International Criminal Court (ICC) to have him prosecuted for crimes against humanity.
In a press briefing at the Matina Enclaves Residences here, Duterte claimed he had prior knowledge of the ICC initiative as early as Tuesday, based on the transcript of a phone conversation between Lewis and an unnamed individual.
Duterte has been accusing the US-based philanthropist of funding destabilization efforts against him.
“We waited for it last Tuesday, but there was nothing. I know everything, tell her that I know. It’s Loida. I have the complete transcript,” Duterte said in Filipino.
He said he had foreign friends in high places to thank for the release of the transcript of the supposed phone conversation.
The ICC announced on Thursday its conduct of preliminary examination of allegations of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines in the conduct of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs. The move was in cognizance of the case filed last year by lawyer Jude Sabio.
The case was based on the Senate testimony of self-confessed former Davao death squad member Edgar Matobato.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano filed a supplemental complaint supporting Sabio’s accusations.
The preliminary examination to be led by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda would determine whether there is basis to eventually conduct a formal investigation into the case against the President.
“I was already listening to the tapes of their conversation. It was provided to me by another country but the conversation was in Philippines and New York,” the President said at Friday’s press conference.
“Loida (Lewis) was one of them. And there was this, ‘See you in the headquarters when the case is filed.’ Blah blah blah blah blah blah,” Duterte added. “From the looks of it, it’s all politics,” he pointed out, referring to the ICC initiative.
Duterte and his allies are questioning the jurisdiction of the ICC over the reported drug killings in the country, saying it cannot intervene in a country where the justice system is still working.
He also pointed out that there is no legal term for extrajudicial killings in the Philippines and that the Rome Statute, although ratified in 2011 by the Philippine Senate, has not yet been incorporated in Philippine laws.
This means, according to presidential spokesman Harry Roque, Duterte cannot be prosecuted for alleged crimes committed when he was still Davao City mayor.
In his Senate testimony, Matobato alleged that the death squad was responsible for the execution of 1,400 people in Davao City under Duterte and that he had directly participated in many of the killings.
Some senators scoffed at his testimony, citing inconsistencies. Sabio, in his complaint, also alleged that the President was responsible for the deaths of 7,000 people in the ruthless war on drugs.