An opposition lawmaker has filed a criminal complaint against former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for making “grave threats” against some members of Congress on his TV show.
A day after the House of Representatives confirmed the removal of the confidential funds of Vice President Sara Duterte, the former president, her father, lambasted lawmakers and singled out House Deputy Minority Leader and Act Teachers Party-list Representative France Castro as among those who exposed the questionable items in the government’s budget bill.
Duterte said confidential funds are needed to identify and “kill” communists in Congress. He said that he used the same type of funds to kill drug suspects in Davao, where he served as city mayor for more than two decades before being elected president in 2016.
Two weeks after the airing of Duterte’s TV show, Castro filed her affidavit against the former president, who could face a prison term of between six months and six years if found guilty.
“Duterte’s statements echo his admitted record of extrajudicial killings of and attacks against mere suspects. Certainly, he still has, to date, considerable influence either directly or indirectly over the military and police institutions,” states an excerpt of Castro’s petition.
This was the first criminal complaint filed against Duterte, who verbally attacked his critics when he was president from 2016 to 2022, during which time he enjoyed legal immunity.
Since Duterte uttered his remarks against Castro on a live TV show as a private citizen, will the complaint lead to his indictment and prosecution? Attorney Rico Domingo of the Movement Against Disinformation, who is also Castro’s legal counsel, said the case “is a challenge to our judicial and prosecutorial system, as to how effective or ineffective it is.”
But Duterte’s former spokesperson dismissed the complaint as having “no legal basis” and was only filed “for propaganda purposes.” Duterte’s former police chief said the threat to kill was merely a figure of speech. Duterte’s son, Rep. Paolo Duterte, said that “public servants should not be onion-skinned and should not make use of this right as a tool to silence critics.”
Castro was quick to refute the arguments of Duterte’s supporters. “Death threats and red-tagging aired on television must be stopped because it endangers the lives of people. It is far different from criticisms and should not be tolerated because it fosters the state of impunity. We have to draw the line,” Castro said in a public statement.
House leaders backed Castro by releasing a joint statement urging the former president to stop making threats against incumbent legislators.
“We call upon the former President and all parties involved to avoid making threats or insinuating harm against any member of the House or the institution itself,” House leaders said. “Dialogue and understanding should always be at the forefront, superseding divisive rhetoric.”
The Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) passed a resolution during its 212th session expressing concern about the threat made by Duterte and its impact on the work of legislators. “It may deter its members from speaking out on important matters and put their lives at significant risk,” the IPU declared.
A former senator also revealed that a video clip of Duterte’s TV show was sent to the International Criminal Court (ICC) as additional evidence about the former president’s involvement in the brutal “war on drugs,” which killed thousands of alleged drug suspects. Duterte and some of his subordinates are being investigated by the ICC for committing crimes against humanity in the enforcement of the anti-drug campaign.
Castro’s complaint is significant because it could embolden other opposition figures to file separate complaints or revive previous cases against the former president to demand accountability. More importantly, it serves as a timely reminder to other public officials and their supporters to refrain from incitement and the spreading of online hate speech against critics of government policies and abuse of power.