By Arjay L. Balinbin
PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte has claimed anew that New York-based businesswoman-philanthropist Loida Nicolas Lewis has conspired with the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate him on his government’s war on drugs.
The President mentioned Ms. Lewis, a known supporter of former president Benigno S.C. Aquino III, in his speech at the general assembly of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) last Tuesday, March 20.
“’Yung babae ngayon (the woman) prosecutor, all along she was in contact with you know, ’yung mga (with) reporters. She was giving interviews, calling her predecessor and placing now her situation or her position in utter disharmony,” Mr. Duterte narrated.
“Eh na-tap siya. Kaya ako… Bakit ko alam si Loida…? Na-tap rin siya.”
(She was wiretapped. So why do I know about what Loida Nicolas Lewis did? She was wiretapped, too.)
Mr. Duterte said he has a copy of Ms. Lewis’s conversation which was given to him by “somebody” from “some countries.”
“Look, I have a copy of your conversation. It was not given to me by America, but by somebody else, by some countries,” he said.
It was on Feb. 9 when the President first tagged Ms. Lewis in the ICC’s decision to conduct a preliminary examination on the complaint filed against him by the camp of opposition Senator Antonio F. Trillanes IV.
He said: “Well,…I have this transmittal. I cannot reveal it, but I can tell you now. Three days after, they were discussing. I had already…I was already listening to the tapes of their conversation. It was provided to me by another country, but the conversation was somewhere [in the] Philippines and New York. Loida…was one of them. And there was this: ‘See you in the headquarters when the case is filed.’”
In a subsequent statement, Ms. Lewis denied the President’s allegations against her.
“There is absolutely no truth to the story given to you by ‘another country,’ that I was in any way involved in the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision to investigate the Extra Judicial Killings in the Philippines,” she said.
“Any supposed transcript of a recent phone conversation is bogus. ‘See you at the headquarters when the case is filed’ is laughable, because US Pinoys for Good Governance does not even have a headquarters! We use internet for communications and teleconference,” she added.
In his press briefing on Thursday, Presidential Spokesperson Herminio Harry L. Roque, Jr. said, “I’m not privy to information that was given to the President.”
As for her possible connections and motivation, the spokesman said civil society organizations are given a big role in the ICC. “She is rich! The ICC accepts donations from private persons and organizations, and I do know that — particularly on the reparation fund. The ICC welcomes donations from everyone.”
Also on Thursday, Mr. Roque thanked Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev for expressing his support for the Philippines’ withdrawal from the ICC.