Charge Rodrigo Duterte with mass murder, lawyer tells The Hague

Lindsay Murdoch

April 25 2017

Bangkok: A blackened body lies unidentified on a slab in a Manila
funeral home, one of thousands of suspected extra-judicial killings, or
EJKs, as they have become known in Philippine President Rodrigo
Duterte’s war on drugs.

The heavily tattooed man in his 20s was found on a Sunday with a bag
over his head, hands tied by wire, shot seven times, stabbed 10 times –
probably with an ice pick. His eyes gouged out.

Arriana’s transgender brother Alvin also known as ‘Heart’, was a small
time drug dealer and was fatally shot 4 times, once in the face, by
masked men who the family claim are police officers from the Pritil
police station.

A Filipino lawyer has now asked the International Criminal Court in The
Hague to charge Mr Duterte and 11 other Philippine officials with mass
murder and crimes against humanity.

The complaint cites investigations by human rights groups and senior
Philippine Catholic bishops denouncing the crackdown as a “reign of terror”.

Lawyer Jude Josue Sabio said in a 77-page complaint that Mr Duterte was
the “mastermind” of a campaign that has killed more than 8000 people,
mostly poor young men, since 1988, when Mr Duterte was first elected
mayor of Davao City in the southern Philippines.

Every night for months, photographers on Manila police’s graveyard shift
have been documenting what has become the biggest slaughter of civilians
in South-east Asia since the Khmer Rouge’s genocide in Cambodia in the

The calamity is there for all to see in urban slums, home to many of the
country’s most impoverished and marginalised people.

Fairfax Media photographer Kate Geraghty documented the case of
26-year-old transgender Heart de Chavez, which has been sent to the UN
Human Rights Commission in Geneva, as a case study of alleged police
complicity in the killings.

First there was an arrest and alleged police extortion. Then execution.

At the age of 14, Heart grew her hair long, started taking hormone pills
and found work washing towels at a beauty parlour.

When her father died when she was in her early 20s she was left to
provide for her mother and two single sisters with four children.

“She was very kind, generous and good,” said Heart’s sister Arriana.

But Heart’s debts grew until she started dealing in drugs last year,
earning 500 pesos ($13) for each transaction.

Police arrested her in January and demanded money but she couldn’t pay,
her family says.

At least seven masked men later burst into the plywood house in a slum
where Heart and her family lived, stepping over children sleeping in a
narrow hallway.

Amid the children’s screams one of the men grabbed Heart by the hair and
pounded her head on a table, family members say.

Heart’s 61-year-old mother Elena begged for the men not to hurt her as
they dragged her out crying. “Ma, help me,” Heart screamed.

Minutes later four gunshots rang out across the neighbourhood.

Heart was found inside an empty house with a bullet hole in her cheek,
her legs curled under her body.

Elena reached her daughter within minutes and dropped to the floor,
clutching her as blood spread across her shirt and hands.

“You did not listen to us,'” she whispered to Heart as she stopped

Witnesses saw the killers walk away laughing.

The report to the Human Rights Commission, citing witnesses, implicates

But not one suspect has been brought to justice for any of the
extra-judicial killings which have been documented in investigations by
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and media organisations,
including Fairfax Media.

According to police statistics, more than 4000 people have been killed
by police or supposed vigilantes in the crackdown since Mr Duterte,
known as the Punisher, took office on June 30 last year.

But there have been few police investigations into the police killings.
Police claim every one of those killed by police were drugs suspects who
supposedly “fought back”.

The official police report into Heart’s death says “unknown assailants”
are wanted for questioning.

Heart’s family members, who are determined to see her killers brought to
justice, are now living in a safe house after receiving death threats.

“Ok, enjoy the happiness and bliss because you and your sister will be
next. We have eyes always on you,” said a text message sent to Arriana.

The family wanted Heart to be buried in Arriana’s floral purple dress,
the one Heart kept slipping from a hanger to model in front of a warped

The funeral director refused, saying Heart was born a man and must be
buried in a man’s clothes.

The coffin was closed with her body dressed in a long-sleeved shirt and
black trousers, her dark hair clipped to the back of her head.

For months Mr Duterte’s war on drugs had been supported by a majority of
Filipinos, while widely condemned outside the country, including by a
United Nations special envoy who described it as a “licence to kill”.

But the killings have now begun to draw strong criticism from the
influential Catholic Church and many civil societies, emboldening Mr
Duterte’s political opponents.

A poll by Social Weather Stations last week indicated support for the
crackdown is declining, with 75 per cent of people saying they were
satisfied with it, down from 85 per cent in a similar poll in December.

Government officials insist the crackdown is being waged with firm
adherence to the “rule of law, due process and human rights”.

It is unclear if the International Criminal Court will accept the
complaint against Mr Duterte and his officials, which includes national
police chief Ronald dela Rosa.

The court can investigate cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and
war crimes if it deems a nation’s own judicial system is unable or
unwilling to prosecute. The Philippines signed on to the court in 2011.

Mr Sabio has represented two men, Edgar Matobato and Arturo Lascanas,
who say they were members of the Davao Death Squad, a unit they say was
created and directed by Mr Duterte when he was mayor of Davao City.

Both have said publicly that the death squad was formed with the aim of
going after small-time drug dealers but was also used to eliminate Mr
Duterte’s political opponents.