A Quezon City prosecutor has issued a subpoena against former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who is facing a criminal complaint filed by ACT Teachers Partylist Representative France Castro.
Duterte is accused of making “grave threats” against the opposition lawmaker during an episode in his TV show in October. Duterte was defending the use of confidential funds by his daughter, Vice President Sara Duterte, when he uttered his controversial remarks against Castro.
Duterte did not comment when Castro filed a complaint against him, but he broke his silence this week after he was summoned to appear and submit his counter-affidavit on December 4 and 11.
Asked about the subpoena, Duterte said that he would just go to jail because Castro is “oppressing” him. He then accused the teacher legislator of being a rebel. “They cut into the mainstream; they are rebels. They want to ruin the Philippines,” he said.
His statement was aired live on TV. He doubled down on his rants against Castro. “How do you solve the problem now, France? That’s why my statement to kill communists, including you – it should be!”
He warned Castro that her position in Congress would not make her safe. “Do not ever think, France, that you have already armor just because you are a member of Congress, that you are no longer vulnerable against the anger coming from the deaths of the military and police,” he said.
For her part, Castro welcomed the issuance of the first subpoena against Duterte, whose term as president ended on June 30, 2022.
“I am glad that the case is progressing and I hope that former Pres. Duterte will face the charges and participate in the preliminary investigation,” she said in a statement.
During his six-year presidency, Duterte verbally attacked and threatened his critics, but no case was filed against him because he enjoyed presidential immunity.
In a media interview, Castro said she was willing to wait to exact accountability from Duterte. “If this will take a while, I am willing to wait but I really want to get justice so I will still not lose hope that our judicial system will rule in my favor,” she said.
A colleague of Castro, Rep. Raoul Manuel, also welcomed the subpoena against Duterte whom he accused of making the threat to intimidate legislators who are calling for the removal of confidential funds of civilian agencies.
The issue has also revealed the cracks in the “unity” government of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., after leaders of the House of Representatives released a statement urging the former president to stop making unfounded allegations and threats against legislators.
In a related development, Vice President Duterte said that her office is no longer pursuing its request for confidential funds to avoid further disunity in the country so that officials can focus on peace and development concerns.
Castro’s complaint may not be the only case to be filed against Duterte. It has been reported that former Senator Leila De Lima is intent on pursuing charges against those who persecuted her and led to her seven-year imprisonment. She was finally released on bail this week. De Lima, a fierce critic of Duterte’s bloody “war on drugs,” could also assist the International Criminal Court, which is investigating Duterte’s role in the extrajudicial killing of thousands of drug suspects.
If Duterte fails to appear on December 4 and 11, the Quezon City prosecutor will issue a resolution based on its evaluation of the complaint and evidence submitted by Castro.
If Duterte’s recent TV show is a gauge of his legal tactics, it seems he is unfazed by the summons as he continued to attack Castro and other leftist lawmakers. His former spokesperson also belittled the complaint and pointed out that Duterte is not capable of killing anyone because of his old age and existing political conditions.
The criminal complaint and the release of De Lima from detention have reinvigorated the clamor for justice, which could inspire other members of the opposition to demand accountability from Duterte and other high-ranking officials of his administration.