MANILA: Former Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte today defended the bloody crackdown on drugs that defined his presidency and said he was ready to “face the music”, as the International Criminal Court investigates thousands of killings on his watch.
Duterte, whose presidency ended last year, told a gathering of prosecutors: “I did what I had to do. If it turns out to be awful later, we can’t do anything about it.”
But he later said: “I will face the music. I will rot in prison and I will die in prison.”
A video of Duterte’s speech was shared by an ABS-CBN news journalist on Twitter.
Duterte, who campaigned on promises to kill drug dealers, is being investigated by the ICC for possible crimes against humanity.
Thousands of drug users and alleged dealers were killed during Duterte’s “war on drugs”, many in mysterious circumstances.
Police say they killed 6,200 suspects during anti-drug operations that ended in shootouts but reject accusations by human rights groups of systematic executions and cover-ups.
Activists accuse Duterte of inciting violence in dozens of public speeches but he insists he told police to kill only in self-defence.
The ICC, a court of last resort, suspended its probe in November 2021 at the request of the Philippines after it said it was carrying out its own investigations.
The probe was reopened in January and the ICC on Monday rejected Manila’s request to suspend it pending an appeal questioning the court’s jurisdiction and authority.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr on Tuesday said he would “disengage” with the ICC. It was not clear if that meant the government would no longer pursue its appeal.
“Disengaging could mean many things, and that is what I want to clarify with the president,” solicitor-general Menardo Guevarra, who was justice minister under Duterte, told news channel ANC.
Asked about the remarks of Marcos, the ICC said it does not comment on ongoing investigations.
Duterte, 78, whose daughter Sara is vice-president, joked today that the ICC would not get to prosecute him because he would likely be dead by 80.