Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte welcomes a preliminary investigation into allegations of crimes against humanity now underway by the International Criminal Court, a spokesman said Thursday, marking an about-face for a man who once described the ICC as "bulls---." Duterte is "sick and tired of being accused" and is prepared to defend himself in court, though the investigation is "a waste of the court's time and resources," spokesman Harry Roque said in announcing the inquiry that is to decide whether there's evidence to build a case, report the New York Times and Guardian. Roque maintained the government crackdown that's left an estimated 12,000 people dead under Duterte's leadership—though police put the number at 4,000—is a "legitimate police operation" to weed out drugs.
Duterte swore to "kill" criminals when he took office in June 2016. He has since faced accusations of mass murder while keeping up a "great relationship" with President Trump. It's those allegations that launched the ICC probe, confirmed by a prosecutor, per the Guardian. In a complaint sent to the ICC last April, a Filipino lawyer representing two men who say they were assassins for Duterte called him a "mastermind" of killings spanning the three decades since he became mayor of Davao in 1988. "Hopefully a warrant of arrest will be issued by the ICC against Duterte and his cohorts," 11 of whom are named in the complaint, the lawyer said, per the Times. Arguing the government is attempting a cover-up, Duterte political opponent Gary Alejano says ICC officials "are the only ones who can step in."