On October 24, 2023, France Castro, a member of the Philippine House of Representatives from the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) party-list group, filed a criminal complaint against former President Rodrigo Duterte for serious threats to her life. This was due to death threats against Castro, which Duterte made in an interview on October 10 on the controversial Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) channel. Duterte called Castro a “communist” who should be killed using the confidential funds requested by his daughter and current vice president, Sara Duterte-Carpio, for the Department of Education to fight the communist insurgency in the Philippines.
In his statements, Duterte appeared to be referring to the House of Representatives’ decision on October 10, 2023, rejecting the proposals for confidential funds for the next budget of five government agencies – including the contested request of the Department of Education, which is headed by Sara Duterte-Carpio. Castro also believes that she came under fire from Duterte because she had previously questioned the use of the confidential funds requested by the Department of Education.
Rodrigo Duterte first received a written subpoena to the office of the public prosecutor in Quezon City on December 4 and 11, 2023 to comment on the allegations and submit the necessary documents. He laughed about the criminal complaint and Castro’s legal steps.
When Rodrigo Duterte’s presidential term ended with the change of government in June 2022, he also lost his immunity. Castro’s criminal complaint is therefore the first attempt to hold Duterte accountable for unlawful statements or actions by means of Philippine jurisdiction.
Castro rejected accusations by Rodrigo Duterte’s son Paolo Duterte about their legal action. The latter said that the law should not be used to silence critics and that his father himself had not filed any complaints regarding his freedom of expression. In her complaint, Castro also referred to the structural violence of unfounded “red-tagging”, i.e. the false accusation of supporting the communist insurgency in the Philippines. As a result, she feels further threatened to become a victim of unlawful charges, arrests, and extrajudicial killing.
Photo © Raffy Lerma