’I fear for my life’: Philippine lawyer behind Duterte probe

This photo taken on February 16, 2018 shows lawyer Jude Sabio displaying the communication he submitted to the International Criminal Court against Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, during an interview in Manila. (AFP)
Updated 17 February 2018

’I fear for my life’: Philippine lawyer behind Duterte probe

MANILA: Philippine lawyer Jude Sabio felt it was his duty to bring President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly war on drugs to the attention of international war crimes prosecutors, but now that a probe into the killings is under way, he fears he too has become a target.
Sabio, who describes himself as penniless and on the run, said he had received death threats from Duterte supporters on social media after filing a petition with the Hague-based International Criminal Court in April last year.
“I’m in a state of constant paranoia because I fear for my life,” Sabio, 51, told AFP in an interview. “It could be very possible that a bullet will hit me.”
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda launched a “preliminary examination” after receiving Sabio’s petition, which alleges around 8,000 extrajudicial killings, and this could lead to a full investigation by the court.
Sabio wants the president arrested.
Duterte won a landslide victory in 2016 elections largely on a pledge to eradicate drugs. He is accused of stoking the killings with inflammatory statements and repeated promises to pardon any police officer charged with murder.
Police say they have killed 4,021 drug suspects in self-defense, but rights groups claim police and shadowy vigilantes have actually killed more than 12,000 people.
Duterte maintains he is beyond the ICC’s jurisdiction and has threatened to withdraw his country from the treaty that created it if the tribunal pursues a formal investigation.
“The problem with me is when I see something wrong I fight,” said Sabio, who had a low-key legal practice for two decades and unsuccessfully ran for public office twice.
“Now to the question of how it feels to be standing against Goliath, to me the fact that he is president, I’m sorry to say this, doesn’t matter to me.”
The unassuming lawyer — the son of public school teachers of modest means — lost the 2010 election for mayor of a southern town and was disqualified for being a “nuisance” senatorial candidate in 2016, officially ruled as lacking funds to run his campaign.
But his life started to change course when in October 2016 he agreed to represent Edgar Matobato, a self-confessed assassin whose deposition forms part of the ICC case.
Matobato had spectacularly confessed at a Senate public hearing a month earlier that he was a member of the “Davao Death Squad” that killed at least a thousand people on Duterte’s orders when the president was mayor of Davao city.
The lawyer alleged in the suit that the drug war was the “Davao Death Squad” on a national scale, which Duterte rejects.
“It is targeting a vulnerable civilian population, composed mostly of the poor living in depressed communities,” Sabio said.
“The only way to stop the killings is to issue a warrant of arrest. Arrest president Duterte and bring him to The Hague.”
Sabio, a short, stocky man with an unruly moustache, has feared for his life ever since and he left his southern home city of Cagayan de Oro for his own safety a year ago — the last time he saw his 75-year-old mother.
His assassins could be “riding in tandem” he said, referring to gunmen on motorcycles, said by witnesses to be behind many of the unsolved street murders of known small-time drug dealers.
Responding to questions about the threat against Sabio, Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque said Tuesday the president bore no “ill will” against the lawyer.
“Let’s make sure that if there’s a threat, he should report it to the police,” Roque told reporters.
However, Sabio hit back Friday, saying “these people are treacherous.”
He said he does not know Duterte personally and denied working for the opposition, taking on the case purely on principle.
But Sabio does not look like a crusader and is battling myriad health problems including diabetes and heart disease — twice going under the knife, the last in mid-2016, to insert six stents for clogged blood vessels.
He still owes the hospital 900,000 pesos (more than $17,000), and when he flew to the Netherlands to file the case “I had no money so people contributed for my plane ticket, and also for my hotel.”
Since leaving Cagayan de Oro, he has missed doctors’ appointments as well as meetings with other clients.
“I could have died in that operation,” Sabio said. “But I don’t know, I was brought to life and maybe this is my mission in life.”


Russia aims to produce ‘millions’ of virus doses by 2021

Updated 50 min 53 sec ago

Russia aims to produce ‘millions’ of virus doses by 2021

  • The Gamaleya institute came under fire after researchers and directors injected themselves with the prototype months ago
  • Scientists have told AFP that Russia will struggle to adapt the vaccine to mass production because the country lacks raw materials, adequate facilities and experience

MOSCOW: Russia said Monday it aims to launch mass production of a coronavirus vaccine next month and turn out “several million” doses per month by next year.
The country is pushing ahead with several vaccine prototypes and one prepared at the Gamaleya institute in Moscow has reached advanced stages of development.
“We are very much counting on starting mass production in September,” industry minister Denis Manturov said in an interview published by TASS news agency.
“We will be able to ensure production volumes of several hundred thousand a month, with an eventual increase to several million by the start of next year,” he said, adding that one developer is preparing production technology at three locations in central Russia.
Health Minister Mikhail Murashko on Saturday said the Gamaleya vaccine had “completed clinical trials” and that documents were being prepared to register it with the state.
Another vaccine, developed by Siberia-based Vektor lab, is currently undergoing clinical trials and two more will begin human testing within the next two months, Murashko said.
Gamaleya’s vaccine is a so-called viral vector vaccine, meaning it employs another virus to carry the DNA encoding of the needed immune response into cells.
Gamaleya’s vaccine employs the adenovirus, a similar technology to the coronavirus vaccine prototype developed by China’s CanSino, currently in the advanced stage of clinical trials.
The Gamaleya institute came under fire after researchers and directors injected themselves with the prototype months ago, with specialists criticizing the move as an unorthodox and rushed way of starting human trials.
Scientists have told AFP that Russia will struggle to adapt the vaccine to mass production because the country lacks raw materials, adequate facilities and experience, particularly with advanced technology like viral vector.
Some Russian officials have boasted that the country will be the first to come up with the vaccine, even comparing it to the space race to produce the first satellite in the Soviet era.
Moscow has dismissed allegations from the UK, the United States and Canada that a hacking group linked to Russian intelligence services tried to steal information about a coronavirus vaccine from labs in the West.
Russia’s coronavirus caseload is currently fourth in the world after the United States, Brazil and India.