Leftist politician asks prosecutors to charge former Philippine president Duterte over death threat

Leftist politician asks prosecutors to charge former Philippine president Duterte over death threat

MANILA (AFP): A Filipino congresswoman asked prosecutors on Tuesday to charge former president Rodrigo Duterte after he allegedly threatened to kill her and called her a communist.

House of Representatives Deputy Minority Leader France Castro filed a criminal complaint with prosecutors in Manila, who will decide if there is enough evidence to charge Duterte.

Castro, who represents the leftist ACT Teachers partylist, alleged Duterte committed the crime of “grave threats” under the Cybercrime Prevention Act during an October 10 interview with local broadcaster SMNI.

Duterte gave on-air advice to his daughter, Vice President Sara Duterte, about how she could use intelligence and confidential funds allocated to her office and the education department, which she also heads.

“Your first target with your intelligence fund is you, you France. Tell her, it is you communists who I want to kill,” Duterte said in the interview that was reshared thousands of times on Facebook. It was later deleted from SMNI’s Facebook page.

The House appropriations committee decided on the same day to divert the funds allocated to some government departments, including the vice president’s office and education, to agencies involved in national security.

In the complaint, Castro said Duterte’s threats were “factually baseless and clearly malicious,” but she could not dismiss them as “figurative, joking, or otherwise benign.”

Castro’s lawyer Antonio La Vina told reporters that it was the first criminal complaint filed against Duterte since he left office.

Duterte was protected from prosecution when he was president, but now that he is an ordinary citizen he can be charged for alleged crimes committed in the Philippines.

La Vina said the maximum penalty for “grave threats” was six years jail and a fine of up to 100,000 pesos ($1,760).

Duterte often threatened to kill people, including drug dealers and rights activists, when he was president from 2016 to 2022.

He also frequently labelled critics as communist sympathizers — a practice known as “red-tagging,” which can result in the arrest, detention or even death of the person targeted.

His signature policy was an anti-narcotics campaign that killed thousands of people and triggered an international investigation into an alleged crime against humanity.

“I was really shocked with the threats,” Castro told reporters Tuesday.

“He can no longer hide. He must be accountable for threatening my life.”

Duterte’s former executive secretary Salvador Medialdea said that Duterte had not yet received the complaint.