In a significant development, government documents released on Wednesday reveal that a prosecutor in Metro Manila has subpoenaed former Philippine President Duterte to address allegations of grave threats made against an opposition lawmaker. The charge of grave threat carries a potential jail sentence of up to six months, with additional complications under local cybercrime laws potentially resulting in a six-year sentence.
Duterte is ordered to appear in person before the prosecutor’s office to submit a counter-affidavit on December 4 and 11. The subpoena explicitly states that no motions to dismiss will be entertained.
The alleged threat occurred during an October 10 episode of Duterte’s local TV program, where he offered advice to his daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio, the current vice president and education secretary to Duterte’s successor, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. In Tagalog, Duterte stated, “But your first target there with your intelligence funds, are you, you France, you Communists that I want to kill.” While the episode was reshared on social media, it has since been taken down.
Duterte Finally Caught?
Representative France Castro, who filed the complaint on October 24, believes the threat was directed at her due to her role in scrutinizing the allocation of confidential and intelligence funds. Duterte-Carpio had requested additional intelligence funding to counter alleged communist rebels’ indoctrination and recruitment in Philippine schools, but the vice president later withdrew the request.
Legal counsel for Castro, Antonio La Viña, anticipates formal charges against the former President. This would mark the first criminal case in the Philippines against Duterte. La Viña argues that regardless of Duterte’s intent or whether he was joking, he cannot evade responsibility, especially since he is no longer President. The alleged threat created fear for Congressman Castro, making accountability imperative.
Duterte’s presidency, spanning six years from his election in 2016, faced considerable criticism for his aggressive drug crackdown, resulting in at least 6,000 government-recorded killings in narcotics-related operations. Human rights advocates estimate a much higher death toll when accounting for officially unexplained deaths. Duterte’s implementation of a “shoot-to-kill” order for drug smugglers has been widely criticized, with the International Criminal Court investigating potential “crimes against humanity” since 2021. The case sheds light on the legal implications and accountability of a former head of state for alleged criminal behavior.