Arroyo leads call to defend Duterte amid looming ICC probe

House Senior Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is taking up the cudgels for former president Rodrigo Duterte, who is facing a possible investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged crimes against humanity in connection with the latter's war against illegal drugs.

House Senior Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (left) and former president Rodrigo Duterte (Arroyo's office, Malacañang)

This, after Arroyo led 18 other House members in filing House Resolution (HR) No.780, titled, "A resolution in defense of former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, the 16th President of the Republic of the Philippines, against investigation and/or prosecution of the International Criminal Court".

Through the measure, Arroyo--Pampanga's 2nd district representative and herself a former president--is calling on the House of Representatives to declare its “unequivocal defense" of the 77-year-old Duterte.

The measure emphasized that Duterte’s “remarkable accomplishments brought about by his relentless campaign against illegal drugs, insurgency, separatism and terrorism, corruption in government and criminality” made the life of Filipinos “better, comfortable and peaceful”.

It likewise cited the need for immediate action to curb the country’s serious and rampant illegal drug situation at the time when Duterte took office, as the drug problem was becoming an “existential threat to the country’s social fabric”.

Duterte's tenure in Malacañang lasted from 2016 to 2022.

The resolution further stated that the country’s unprecedented growth in exports and investments during the Duterte presidency was the result of the administration’s “holistic and whole nation approach in ending insurgency and curbing the drug menace in the country”.

It also quoted Depaetment of Justice (DOj) Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, who called the ICC’s intent to resume its investigation against Duterte’s anti-drug campaign as “insulting” and “totally unacceptable”.

Arroyo said she is especially keen on ensuring that justice is meted out fairly to everyone as she claimed to be a victim of unfair investigation and prosecution during the time of the late former president Benigno S. Aquino III--her immediate successor and Duterte's immediate predecessor.

Arroyo was placed under hospital arrest for nearly four years in connection with the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) plunder case, which was finally decided on during the Duterte administration.

The Supreme Court (SC) dismissed in July 2016 the PCSO plunder case against the former president and her co-petitioner, Benigno Aguas, ruling that the Sandiganbayan "committed grave abuse of discretion when it denied their respective demurrers to the evidence”.

Joining Arroyo in filing HR No.780 were Reps. Carmelo Lazatin, Jr., Aurelio Gonzales, Anna York Bondoc-Sagum, Jose Alvarez, Mary Mitzi Cajayon-Uy, Richard Gomez, Wilton Kho, Loreto Amante, Edward Hagedorn, Edwin Olivarez, Eric Martinez, Eduardo Rama, Jr., Dale Corvera, Zaldy Villa, Ma. Rene Ann Lourdes Matibag, Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo, Johnny Pimentel and Marilyn Primicias-Agabas.

There are currently 312 House members in the 19th Congress.

Critics of Duterte have claimed that over 10,000 died during the previous administration’s war on drugs. The Philippines withdrew its membership from the ICC in 2019.