NY Civic Leader and philanthropist Loida Nicolas-Lewis denying accusation by President Duterte of an alleged plot to destabilize the government. | FAPCNY File Photo and Lewis' Press Statement
CHICAGO (JGL) — Filipino American lawyer Loida Nicolas Lewis has clarified that “(t)here is absolutely no truth to the story that I was in any way involved in the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision to investigate the Extra-Judicial Killings in the Philippines.”
In an open letter to President Duterte, the New York City-based Lewis said, “Any supposed transcript of a recent phone conversation is bogus.
“‘See you in the headquarters when the case is filed’ is laughable because US Pinoys for Good Governance does NOT have a headquarters!!! We use the internet for communications and teleconference.”
In a Facebook post, the businesswoman and civic leader from Sorsogon City in the Philippines said, “The only time I remember saying that was in 2013, when the USPGG organized a rally in front of the U.N. Headquarters to show our support for the Philippine delegation who filed the case against China — which the Philippines won on July 12, 2016.”
Lewis, however, said, “I do believe that the murder without due process of our fellow Filipinos on suspicion of drug dealing is reprehensible and goes against the laws of both God and man.”
Press briefing in Davao City
In a press briefing in Davao City on Friday, Feb. 9, President Duterte said Lewis allegedly conspired with the International Criminal Court to have him prosecuted for crimes against humanity “based on a conversation between Lewis and an unnamed individual.
“We waited for it last Tuesday, but there was nothing. I know everything, tell her that I know. It’s Loida. I have the complete transcript,” Duterte was quoted in Filipino.
Duterte said he got the information from “foreign friends in high places to thank for the release of the transcript of the supposed phone conversation.”
It was on Thursday, Feb. 8 that the ICC announced it is conducting a preliminary examination of allegations of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines in the Duterte administration’s war on drugs that was filed by a Mindanao lawyer, Jude Sabio.
The case was based on the Senate testimony of self-confessed former Davao death squad member Edgar Matobato. Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano filed a supplemental complaint supporting Sabio’s accusations.
The preliminary examination to be led by ICC prosecutor Ms. Fatou Bensouda would determine whether there is a basis to eventually conduct a formal investigation into the case against the President.
“I was already listening to the tapes of their conversation. It was provided to me by another country but the conversation was in Philippines and New York,” the President said at Friday’s press conference, according to Philippine Star.
Trillanes, Nicolas-Lewis personae non-gratae in Davao City
Meanwhile, in Davao City, the city council, in its session today, Feb. 13, declared Trillanes and Lewis personae non-gratae (unwelcome person) according to the Sunstar. The council claimed both were allegedly supporting destabilization efforts against President Duterte, who served as Davao mayor for 22 years.
According to the report, which quoted Vice Mayor Bernard Al-ag who pushed a resolution declaring Trillanes as unwelcome in the city, Trillanes’ comment that the “city is the most dangerous city in the Philippines is not acceptable.” “This is an insult to the 1.6 million Dabawenyos who are working hard every day to make our city safe,” Al-ag said.
“He said that such statement is a ‘mockery’ [of] Dabawenyos intelligence.” He added that “Trillanes went to the United States only to portray Davao City as [a] dangerous place, a place full of criminals, a city of murderers, and a city of rapists,” referring to a recent visit which Trillanes had in Chicago.
The vice mayor challenged the Filipinos in Chicago who attended the forum of the senator to come and visit Davao City, SunStar reported. “Try riding our taxis, our jeepneys…try walking in our streets in the middle of the night, try eating in our restaurants and karenderias, try going to our police stations. And if you feel even an iota of danger, if you feel and think that Davao is a city of murderers and rapists as what Mr. Trillanes declared, I will refund all your travel expenses plus pocket money going to Chicago.”
In addition, this reporter also learned that “Tindig Pilipinas,” a unified democratic opposition apparently “led by Sen. de Lima, Sen. Trillanes, and Vice President Leni Robredo will be having People Power anniversary actions on February 24/25.” This information came from an email which Eric Lachica, a Washington DC Coordinator of the US Filipinos for Good Governance, had sent to some people in the media.
US Senate Bill S.1055
The email also mentioned that “[a]pparently recent events are helping the Tindig coalition defend democracy, protect human rights and rule of law in Inang Bayan, e.g. the ICC decision to start the investigation of Du30.”
In his email, Lachica said that the USFGG believes that ” S.1055 offers the best balance of “carrots and sticks” to persuade the Duterte Administration to respect human rights, to follow the rule of law, to end widespread extrajudicial killings and to solve drug addiction with public health strategy of prevention and rehabilitation.”
S.1055 refers to a Senate bill introduced by U.S. Senators Benjamin Cardin (D-Md) and Marco Rubio (R-Fl) titled the Philippines Human Rights Accountability and Counternarcotics Act, a legislation that would “restrict the exportation of certain defense articles by the United States to the Philippine National Police, support human rights and civil society organizations in the Republic of the Philippines, and report on sources of narcotics entering that country.”
With a report from Ricky Rillera in New York