Philippine Daily Inquirer



ILIGAN CITY—The lawyer who haled President Duterte to the Internatio­nal Criminal Court (ICC) for the extrajudic­ial killings (EJKs) that occurred under the “war on drugs” has died after testing positive for the disease that he had labeled a hoax.

Jude Josue Sabio, who was among the first to file a complaint against the President at the ICC in The Hague in 2017, and who withdrew it three years later, died around 4.30 a.m. on April 13, according to lawyer Larry Gadon.

In a short video posted online, Gadon said Sabio had died of a stroke, that his remains were set for cremation, and that he had tested positive for COVID-19.

Sabio hogged the headlines late in 2016 for standing as lawyer of Edgar Matobato, a confessed hitman of the Davao Death Squad supposedly organized by Mr. Duterte when he was mayor of Davao City beginning in 1988.

Matobato testified at a Senate inquiry into the EJKs that were said to resemble some of the killings of the hit squad back then.

Complaint withdrawn

Sabio took the matter further by filing the first informatio­n at the ICC about Mr. Duterte’s alleged criminal responsibi­lity for the war on drugs.

He filed the 77-page case in April 2017. But in January 2020, he wrote the ICC that he was withdrawin­g his complaint because, he said, the case was just part of the propaganda of the political opposition against Mr. Duterte.

Posting online, former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, whom the lawyer implicated as behind the political propaganda against Mr. Duterte, said: “Atty. Jude Sabio was a good man, but like all of us he had a vulnerabil­ity. May he rest in peace.”

In his complaint against the President and 11 of the latter’s allies, Sabio cited the “continuing mass murder” in the Philippine­s that supposedly began during Mr. Duterte’s time as Davao mayor and went on under the antidrug and anticrime campaigns.

Sabio told the Inquirer in an interview in February 2018 that he felt “tremendous pressure” from the implicatio­ns and consequenc­es of what he might have set in motion and feared for his personal safety.

Disbarment threat

Solicitor General Jose Calida, one of the 11 officials whom Sabio wanted the ICC to investigat­e, threatened to initiate disbarment proceeding­s against him.

In withdrawin­g the case he filed at the ICC, Sabio also said his turnaround was motivated partly by the “pittance “he supposedly received from the opposition for his services.

As the COVID-19 pandemic was peaking, Sabio espoused the controvers­ial view that the deadly disease was a hoax.

“If this medical opinion of doctors were to be believed, this government’s draconian response of a lockdown originated from nothing but a hoax of global proportion­s. The government just acted like a coward[ly] huge elephant being attacked by a tiny cat, tripping in fear and panic and falling into a cliff to meet its death,” Sabio wrote in the Mindanao Gold Star Daily on May 19, 2020.

He would go on to write several more opinion pieces denying the reality of COVID-19.

Sabio is a native of Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental, where he made an unsuccessf­ul attempt in 2010 to be elected mayor.

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