Lawyer to pull out ICC case vs Duterte

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    LAWYER Jude Sabio yesterday said he is withdrawing the “communication” that he filed in 2017 accusing President Duterte before the International Criminal Court (ICC) of committing crimes against humanity in connection with his administration’s bloody war against illegal drugs.

    Sabio is the lawyer of self-confessed Davao Death Squad member Edgar Matobato. He filed his communication with the ICC on April 24, 2017 after Matobato testified before the Senate and claimed Duterte was behind the killings of high-profile drug lords not only in Davao City but in other parts of the country as well.

    In his affidavit subscribed on Tuesday before a notary public in Quezon City, Sabio said: “I fervently request that it (communication) be expunged or erased from the record, and that I should not be used in any way in the ongoing preliminary investigation or examination.”

    He likewise told the ICC: “I also fervently request that the legal matter pending with your office in relation to the war on drugs in the Philippines should be set aside and thrashed for being just a part of the political propaganda of Senator Antonio Trillanes, Senator Leila De Lima and their LP (Liberal Party)-led opposition of which I do not wish to be a part.”

    “In light of all these and under the circumstances obtaining, I am left with no choice but to formally withdraw from your office the communication that I filed way back 24 April 2017,” he added.

    It was suspended lawyer Larry Gadon who furnished reporters several pages of Sabio’s notarized affidavit.

    In a phone interview, Sabio said he will “submit it (affidavit) personally with the ICC anytime soon.”

    Gadon said he assisted Sabio for “moral support” when he had his affidavit subscribed before a Quezon City notary public.

    POLITICAL PROPAGANDA

    Also in his affidavit, Sabio said: “I would be given a pittance when they (Trillanes et al) needed me for the political propaganda and then later, I would be told that there was no more budget due to financial constraints. It was a pattern that was all too obvious to me.”

    “For if push came to shove, and if our discussion came to the next level, I would have charged them so many millions of pesos that they would find it impossible to engage me as lawyer for alias Bikoy (Peter Joemel Advincula),” he also said. Advincula had initially claimed that family members of Duterte were involved in the illegal drugs trade in the country. He later on recanted his testimony and pointed accusing fingers at the political opposition, which he claimed paid him to discredit the President.

    Based on Advincula’s allegations, the PNP filed sedition and inciting to sedition charges before the Department of Justice against Trillanes, Vice President Leni Robredo and other opposition personalities. The DOJ has yet to resolve the case.

    Gadon claimed Sabio “did not approve what Trillanes and other LP personalities have resorted to aimed at besmirching the honor of the President.”

    He said Sabio told him that like in the Matobato case, “the same thing could happen” to the ICC complaint. He did not elaborate.

    Sabio asked the ICC in 2017 to bring charges against Duterte and other senior Philippine officials for “the terrifying and gruesome situation of continuing mass murder in the Philippines.”

    In reaction to Sabio’s communication, along with 51 other communications filed with the ICC, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda started a preliminary examination of the allegations in February 2018.

    Duterte announced the Philippines was withdrawing from the ICC weeks later.

    The country’s exit from the ICC was formalized in March last year but Bensouda said the international court continues to retain jurisdiction to prosecute Duterte for any crimes of humanity committed before Manila withdrew from the international treaty that created the court.

    Duterte has repeatedly said the ICC has no jurisdiction over him.

    The other communications filed with the ICC includes those from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, Trillanes and former Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano.