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President Rodrigo Duterte appeared to be joking when he thought out loud about cancelling the East Asia Leader’s Summit in Manila this November which would be the highlight of the Philippines’ hosting of the golden anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

At the start of his press conference Saturday night, Duterte said: “Anak ka ng… Kung ganito lang naman ang mga summit, kanselado na ‘yung sa November. Totoo. Pareho naman. Wala naman nagbago.”

“Totoo. Pwede na siguro. We can do away ‘yung sa November. Iyong Foreign Affairs, si, sa… Sir, huwag ka na mag-summit-summit dito. Magtinginan muna tayo para… We have to catch with… Nothing to catch,” he added.

But it could also be possible that Duterte that the joke was half-meant as he might be getting nervous about the November summit, which would include a United States-ASEAN, especially if the International Criminal Court prosecutor decided to investigate the mass murder communication filed by lawyer Jude Sabio.

It was Malacanang who pointed out that Sabio’s move to raise complaints on human rights abuses to the ICC at the Hague, Netherlands was meant to embarrass the President as it was filed just days before the start of the ASEAN Leaders Summit and backstopped by a damning New York Time’s editorial calling for the ICC to stop Duterte’s human abuses.

On the same day Duterte made the joke, international law expert Tony La Vina warned of what a huge embarrassment it would be for Duterte to be investigated by the ICC for allegedly ordering the killing of 9,400 people since his days as Davao City mayor while acting as host to world leaders in November.

“The initiation of a preliminary examination or even a full blown investigation in November when the Asean leaders meet again and this time with the leaders of the United Nations, China, the United States, Europe, India and other countries, could potentially be more damaging. Let us not be surprised when that happens. Better still, let’s make sure it does not happen by changing course before it’s too late,” said La Vina in his Manila Standard column.

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